by Steve Lancaster 5/18/14
I Saw Ramallah, by Mourid Barghouti, is a personal journey by an exile from the West Bank who returns after thirty years. Barghouti presents the problem of Arab exiles from the West Bank in the most sympathetic method imaginable. His narrative is personal, passionate and intended to wrench the heart of the reader. His trip is truly noteworthy; however, not because of what he says, but for issues he will not address. Barghouti presents a partisan history of the region. Barghouti claims his people, Palestinians, are innocent victims of aggression on the part of Israel. If not for the big bad state of Israel, they would be residents of their own nation.
The issue of who, what, where, why, and how of the over 1300-year conflict between Christians, Jews, and Moslems from the time of the Islamic expansion to the creation of modern day Israel is not easily solved. If there were a simple solution it would have happened by now. However, propaganda like Barghouti’s book does not lead to rational resolutions and contributes to the ongoing bitterness on all sides. Additionally, Barghouti is making a claim for his family and is not making a claim for the Palestinian people. His family in 1967 is wealthy enough to send their children to Cairo University as Barghouti did. Moreover, Barghouti has the personal resources to live an international lifestyle for over 30 years spending a great deal of time in Europe.[pullquote]The notion of a Palestinian people is a fraud created for political proposes by the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.[/pullquote]
An example of this personal interest is his visit to a school he attended in Ramallah: “Nobody in the whole of Europe would have believed me if I had told them that the teachers, parents, cleaners, headmaster and hundreds of children at my school . . . all belonged to the same family and carried the name Barghouti!” (65) A large powerful family. A family that owned land and encouraged tenant farming is not likely to be friendly to land reforms next door by the returning Zionist Jews from the 1880’s to 1948.
There has never been a nation of Palestine. It has been a province and a place; a province of the Roman Empire after the destruction of the state of Israel in the first century AD, and a place as a part of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and as part of the British mandate from the end of WWI to 1948. The notion of a Palestinian people is a fraud created for political proposes by the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The goals of these leaders can be viewed as preventing a modern Western nation from developing in the Levant rather than explicit opposition to Judaism. Had any modern consensual democratic state been created where Israel is today, secular without any religious tradition, the opposition from these and other Moslem nations would have been the same. It is opposition to Western culture, law, and science that offends the Theo-statist nations of the Middle East.
Barghouti and his comrades need to come to terms with the realities of life. They are a displaced people due to their own choosing. The West Bank was part of Jordan before 1948 and 1967 wars. If Barghouti wants to claim citizenship of any country it is Jordan he should look to. The tragedy of the camps is not that they are creations of Israel, but creations of the Moslem nations to keep Palestinians separate from their populations. Barghouti seeks some sort of unity with the rest of the Muslim would, but that is code word for a time when all knew their place and his family and families like them were in charge. He would be happier to return to the Ottoman Empire’s ineffectual caliphate.
Before WW I Jews lived in qualified shelter in Muslim countries. However, after the Second World War and the founding of Israel in 1948, Muslim countries began a systematic effort to remove all Jews from their countries. When Jews refused to be a part of the Dhimmis, they broke precedent with history. The revulsion of the world over the holocaust summoned called up the will of Western nations to create in 1948 a Jewish nation state composed of Zionists who had been buying property there since the 1880’s and displaced people from post-war Europe.
In Iraq, Jewish citizens who perhaps had a better claim as “native” then many Shia and Sunni Arabs, were murdered and attacked repeatedly; finely at great financial and personal cost, they picked up and moved to Israel. A pattern repeated all over the Muslim world so that today in the Muslim world the Jewish populations are gone. Jewish culture in Iraq and Egypt has been obliterated. Not one Muslim government opposed making the Muslim world Judenrein.
Where is Barghouti speaking out for these people? Today, Muslims in Israel have more access to civil rights than across the border in the West Bank. Muslim women are present in the Israeli Knesset, Muslim police officers patrol the streets of Tel Aviv, Muslim soldiers are part of the Israel Defense Force. Where is the integration of Jews and Christians in any Muslim country? Christian, Jews and Muslims have access to holy sites in Israel and Jerusalem because of Israeli law. The history of Muslim management of holy sites in Jerusalem before 1967 is one of exclusion and restriction. Until the 1967 war, Jews were forbidden access to the Western Wall and Christians were prohibited access to their holy sites. Should control in Barghouti’s fantasy world return to “his” people can any realistic person believe that consensual government and liberty are likely in the West Bank and Jerusalem? The example of Gaza is most predominant in recent history.
Thomas Wolfe novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, summarizes Barghouti’s story; “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood…back home to places in the country, back home to the old form and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of time and memory.”
The truth is consensual government. Islamists demand that an Islamic state must assume the role of the only source of truth. That there are truths that exist outside of Islam are not acceptable, thus the sad story of Barghouti and his family will continue. • (1418 views)