Lucky You Come
“Lucky you come
June 14, 20081,
Sponsored by the Friends of Sabeel
Good evening, Salam and Aloha,
Let me start by thanking my hosts, the Friends of Sabeel, and specifically Mr. Ramsis Lutfy and Ms. Margaret Brown, who have been kind enough to arrange for this wonderful occasion. Before leaving home I spoke to the Rev. Naim Atik, the Palestinian founder of Sabeel in the best tradition of proactive liberation theology. He asked me to convey his regards and blessings to you. Some of my friends here tonight, including my protestant wife Didi and my two brothers, the Catholic Indonesian Djon and the Hindu Jagy, will recall the good old days of the early 1960s when, as foreign students at the University of Hawaii, we used to seek warmth at the Church of the Crossroads thanks to the hospitality and humanity of our friend and host at the time, the late Rev. Del Rayson.
I am touched by the interest of so many people in this island paradise in a subject relevant to the hell burning half way across the globe, though the hell is perpetrated with the full support of the
In his book Palestinian Walks, the Palestinian lawyer and author Raja Shehadeh states: “Perhaps the curse of
It is with this in mind that I want to declare my full secularism and my support for a single secular and democratic state in all of historical
My goal today is to introduce to you the little known community in the Middle East that has had a vested interest in peace and which has been ignored by all parties to the ongoing conflict, my community, the Palestinian Arab citizens of
Here I want to distinguish clearly between this little known group and other parts of the Palestinian people: those under occupation in the West Bank and
This small group of less than 150,000 in 1948, or some 15% of the population of
Land, Population and Housing:
Our natural population development has brought upon us the wrath of Zionist policymakers who invented the term ‘demographic time bomb’ for it. This offensive term, the related discriminatory Law of Return, and the three dozen land confiscation laws especially formulated to usurp our land, all presented to the world as part of
The rapid population increase, together with land confiscation, has led to excessive overcrowding in our towns and villages. I should explain here that in Israel the two population groups live in segregated communities with the exception of a few ‘mixed cities’ where Jews and Arabs live in segregated neighborhoods, oftentimes separated by high concrete walls and barbwire.
Subsidized housing exists exclusively for members of the Jewish majority. In Nazareth Elite or Upper Nazareth, established in the 1950’s to offset the historical native city of Nazareth on land confiscated from its residents and those of surrounding Arab villages, young Arab couples have been buying homes from disgruntled immigrants who prefer the central Jewish cities, this prompting a Movement to Keep Nazareth Elite pure.
Two further related phenomena are house demolitions, exclusively practiced against
Who are the Palestinians and where do I fit among them?
M My best guess at our historical background is described in the last page in my book of memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee. I will read a couple of paragraphs from the entry in my memoirs describing my successful transplanting of a millennia-old olive tree from a neighboring valley to my front yard:
The horrific sense of history inspired by this continuous biological link between me and my land is simply awesome. Are the Palestinians not the historical descendants of the Minoans of
But at bottom, it was those Minoan olive oil traders and their Palestinian descendants, clinging to their land and subsisting in the shadow of their olive groves, that morphed into an ambitious nation laying claim to Arab culture, the last dominant culture of significant impact. My tree knows and attests to all of that; that is how it all started. This horrendous behemoth, with its two-meter wide, beautifully sculpted trunk and over ten square meters of beautifully sculpted exposed root system saw it all. I can prove my belonging to this piece of the earth’s crust through it; its roots are my surrogate roots. And they are taking hold in my land that I inherited from my father, who inherited it from his father,… and so on ad- infinitum.
Now I will attempt briefly to introduce to you my own narrative in the context of the ME conflict, in the hope that I will leave you with some appreciation of the degree of injustice that Israel and the US continue to wreak upon my people, the Palestinians, all of course, as seen from my perspective as an involved witness to the process. Again I will read from my book of memoirs, now from my foreword to it:
'A Doctor in Galilee: The Story and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel' is a memoir arising from my struggle as a physician to bring the benefits of Public Health and community development to my people, the Palestinian Arab minority citizens of Israel. The intimate personal narrative introduces readers to this little known and often misunderstood population that is nonetheless key to understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I was born in 1937 In
As subsistence olive farmers my family sacrificed much to put me through the
After two years of vacillating we returned home to the
The narrative follows a simple chronological pattern, but is replete with contemplative pauses, flashbacks, village scenes and foibles from rural
An introduction by journalist and author Jonathan Cook sets the memoirs in proper historical and political perspective. It also serves as an excellent primer on the Palestinian community in
Indicators of Discrimination:
Let me now share with you some facts and figures taken from the most recently available Israeli Yearbook of Statistics. The figures are for the year 2006. Unfortunately, these prove that I have failed miserably to improve the status of my community vis-à-vis that of the Jewish majority in
Let me first speak of the one statistic that I have the authority to speak on as a Public Health expert, that of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). It is the number out of a thousand live births in a specific year that die before their first birthday. IMR has been shown to be the best indicator of a community’s general wellbeing. It is affected most by such independent variables as the community’s environmental health (as reflected in the cleanliness of its water supply), by the level of income of the heads of families, and by the level of education of the mothers. Our IMRs have run double those of the Jewish majority since the establishment of
And Arab families are three times as likely to be under the poverty line. Such statistics are more damning if one looks at them more analytically. Over time this statistic has worsened as well. Of special meaning is that the intervention of the state in terms of subsidies and support payments elevates relatively three times as many Jewish families to above the poverty line as it does Arab ones, a clear indication of the state’s discriminatory practices.
And the future doesn’t bode well for us. Our young adults (age 20-35 years) are one third as likely to be at an institute of higher education as do their Jewish co-citizens.
What can we do?
This all begs the question of what can we do? I have no easy answer. Your presence here tonight is an indication of your awareness and commitment. More of the same is all I can ask from you: Use your influence, moral, political and social, to make it possible for Palestinians to air their narrative and to debunk the standard myths and spin-doctoring that your media continues to force-feed you. Help free your political representatives from the yoke of financial dependence on dominant lobby groups and agents of vested interest. Use your democratic system to act on your convictions.
The apartheid separation wall continues to be built with your tax money. It infringes on the rights of so many Palestinian villagers in the OTs and robs them of their land and livelihood. Yet, as all separation walls throughout history, this wall will also come down. What we all need to work on collectively is the mental separation wall of fear and hate that permits some of us to put themselves above others. It is the exclusivist mental separation wall that allows the Zionist majority of Israel’s citizens and their dominant political parties, even now, to self-righteously demand my ‘transfer’, my expulsion out of my home, witness the platform of such Zionist leaders as Lieberman, the ex-deputy prime minister, and the statements of Ms. Livni, Israel’s current foreign Minister. It is this exclusivist and elitist mental separation wall that permits the issuing of public theological dispensations allowing, nay even demanding, the slaughter of Palestinians, their women and children and even their cattle and the destruction of their crops and orchards, all based on the old tribal conflict with a group known in biblical times as the Amalikites, now revived in some sick minds as the Palestinians.
It is that worldview that I ask you to take a stand on through political pressure and civil society activism, every day and everywhere. As a secular pacifist I put my trust in the common sense and common decency of humanity at large. At the end these ample human resources will triumph.
In the sixties in this very place we all sang: “We shall overcome, someday!”