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by Mazin Qumsiyeh
Friday, Mar. 05, 2004 at 9:20 PM
My family lives in Beit Sahur, the biblical Shepherds' Field. The church of Nativity in Bethlehem is about 700 yards from the house in Beit Sahour where I was born and the church where I was baptized. Many, but not all, Palestinians adopted Islam over the years, just as not all Palestinian Jews and Pagans became Christians. Despite the usual problems between minorities and majorities, we all coexisted.
After watching "The Passion of Christ," I thought both Gibson and his critics are wrong. Jesus did walk this earth but what exactly did he say and what happened to him may or may not be correctly recorded in the Gospels we use today, let alone in Gibson's film.
It was refreshing to hear Aramaic. Aramaic is actually closer to modern day Arabic than modern day Hebrew. I understand some Aramaic because I know Arabic and Hebrew and hence I can decipher words common to their ancestral language but dropped from one or the other. Some Palestinian Christians still speak a modified version of Aramaic.
My family lives in Beit Sahur, the biblical Shepherds' Field. The church of Nativity in Bethlehem is about 700 yards from the house in Beit Sahour where I was born and the church where I was baptized. Many, but not all, Palestinians adopted Islam over the years, just as not all Palestinian Jews and Pagans became Christians. Despite the usual problems between minorities and majorities, we all coexisted. That is until a European colonial idea called Zionism came about in the 19th century. With massive resources and support from imperial powers (Ottoman, then British, then American), a whole society was transformed.
In 1850, Palestine had 80% Muslims, 15% Christian, 5% Jews and others. Today 5 million of the 9 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people. In parallel, millions of Jews from some 60 countries came to Palestine under the banner of Zionism. They were given "rights" and privileges to settle on Palestinian land and rule and subjugate the remaining natives. The displaced natives live in refugee camps or in "unrecognized towns" or in large open-air prisons being surrounded by walls and barriers. In the last 57 years, Palestinians suffered ethnic cleansing, massacres (over 33 just between 1947-1948), societal destruction, land confiscations, and grave violations of basic human rights. All of this was well documented by human rights groups and is ruled illegal by dozens of yet-to-be enforced UN resolutions.
This large-scale theft of land did occur elsewhere (e.g. European colonization of the Americas). What is unique here is that this is still happening in the 21st century. Just in the last year, Israeli colonial forces demolished hundreds of houses, confiscated thousands of properties, rendering thousands homeless and jobless all while the world watched. The apartheid walls are slowly encircling five separate Palestinian cantons remaining on 10% of historical Palestine. Walls separate remaining Palestinians from their lands, from work, from schools, from hospitals, from their urban centers, and from each other. With unemployment at 70% and rising while all access to humanitarian aid is controlled, Israel hopes to suffocate them to total oblivion. Meanwhile the 1.3 million Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) with Israeli "citizenship" are considered at best strangers in the "Jewish state" and at worst as a "demographic threat" to be dealt with.
Most Palestinian Christian families have been ethnically cleansed from the previously thriving Galilee and Jerusalem areas (like Ein Karam and Al-Katamon). Now hundreds of
Christian families are being choked out of areas like Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Beit Sahur. It would be a shame if Christian sites in the Holy Land will be reduced to tourist attractions that help finance Israeli tour companies while a 2000-year-old community of Christians dissipates. For our Muslim co-nationals, the situation is not any better. Meanwhile Zionists keep playing the victim card while finishing the destruction of a whole society and culture. The son of victims of Nazi concentration camps, Norman Finkelstein wrote a book about this "Holocaust industry" used to advance Zionist projects but not help victims of Nazism.
It is really sad how Zionists suppressed non-Ashkenazi Jewish culture, (Sephardic and Mizrachi), how they discarded Yiddish to develop Hebrew, how they discarded International law to develop chauvinistic violence and territorial expansion, and how they discarded Jewish morality and justice to develop Jewish supremacist power. To sustain this, they developed the mythology that a "Jewish state" is an answer to discrimination and violence against Jews. That this is inherently unstable structure built on lies is now documented from opened historical archives, published Zionist sources, and declassified government archives. Many Jews now wonder. Is Israel offering safety or violence to Jews by oppressing another people? Does Zionism combat anti-Semitism or are they faces of the same coin?
Unrelated and diverse events are used as opportunities to advance Zionist agendas while brandishing the historical victim card as a shield from criticism one more time. These events range from Mel Gibson’s movie, to Palestinian resistance to colonizers, to the critique of the Jewish neo-cons around Bush, and to UN resolutions adopted by 140 countries (against Israel, the US, Micronesia, and the Marshal Islands). Instead of being used as opportunities for thoughtful self-reflections and real work against all forms of racism and bigotry, Zionists try to convince other Jews that somehow all these things are connected with one thread: non-Jews hate Jews. Zionism thrives on building fear.
By contrast, racism against other groups is dismissed as somehow inferior and in some cases even encouraged. Groups like the "Anti-Defamation League", not only spied on anti-Apartheid, Arabs, and Muslims (in the 1980s), but continue to vilify these groups while defending the bigotry inherent in Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Thus, they lose their credibility when they speak even about the real discrimination against Jews.
In this context, criticism of Gibson’s movie by Zionists is simply not credible. Why not criticize the dozens of movies that vilify Muslims and Arabs today (not those who lived 2000 years ago)? They have such titles as Iron Eagle, Death Before Dishonor, Navy SEALs, Patriot Games, the American President, Delta Force 3, Executive Decision, and GI Jane.
Why not criticize a state claiming to represents Jews when it daily kills Palestinians and takes their land using our US tax money and diplomatic support?
While we worry about the ramifications of this movie (and enrich Mel Gibson), the US army is busy in a dozen countries in the Arab/Muslim world supporting puppet brutal regimes, while enriching multinational corporations and impoverishing people at home and abroad. Meanwhile, a state claiming to represent Jews around the world daily kills Palestinians, takes their land, imprisons and starves them. All using US tax money and diplomatic support. Why would anyone be surprised that 59% of Europeans and 43% of Americans think of Israel as one of the most dangerous countries on earth?
Imagine if we are told the truth that Israel can and must evolve into a post-Zionist state for all its citizens. That the US can and must evolve into a post-imperial era in which we advance democracy and human rights instead of oppression and injustice. These are the real keys to durable security and peace in our world.
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