In May 1948, a minority of Palestinian residents, mostly recent settlers from Europe, declared an independent state against the wishes of the majority. This was the latest in a series of inter-communal disturbances that had followed the passage of the UN Partition Plan, and one which precipitated an expected intervention of Arab armies from neighboring states. At the end of the war, Palestine was partitioned by the new State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Egypt. Most of the inhabitants of Palestine, Palestinian Arabs, had been forced out of areas they had lived in, directly or indirectly. Some, much fewer, Jews suffered the same fate. Over the next few years, five hundred Palestinian villages were destroyed; Palestinian place names were changed, many of the native Palestinian, including Palestinians living in the state who should have been considered citizens according to the Declaration of Independence, were not allowed to return to their homes. In many cases. Jewish refugees were resettled in those homes. In a space of a few years, Palestine was literally and figuratively wiped off the map.
In light of the above, I am disturbed that Jewish students at Barnard are disturbed by seeing a map of Palestine calling for Justice in Palestine that doesn’t have the State of Israel on the map. If they are disturbed by the thought that the State of Israel is not on the map, why aren’t they disturbed at the actual destruction of Palestine that occurred in 1948? Do they think that Palestine ceased to exist after the British Mandate expired? That Palestinians have no homeland? That they came from Brigadoon or Atlantis?
“You can’t go home again,” wrote Thomas Wolfe. Tell that to the Zionists who to this day claim the Land of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Just as the Land of Israel exists, Palestine still exists, and will always exist as along as Palestinian Arabs remember it and wish its continued existence. I simply cannot fathom how any Zionist cannot understand this. Imagine the Romans saying to the Jews of their time, “Wishing to return to Jerusalem is personally offensive to us. Why isn’t Aelia Capitolina on your map? You lost. Get over it.” Would that carry any weight with Jews then or during the ages? Would it carry any weight with Zionists today?”
At Barnard the Students for Justice in Palestine hung a banner stating, “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” (see above) and the administration took it down.
I don’t want to get into the free speech vs. private institution issue. If I did, I would say that I am pretty much a free speech absolutist, especially when it comes to college campuses.
I want to talk about the sign itself. I understand why pro-Israel students are disturbed by the sign, but from a moral standpoint, they should get over it. To this day, I am viscerally disturbed by some aspects of Christianity, and going into churches is not easy for me. That’s because as an orthodox Jew, I get that there is a fundamental incommensurability between the two religions,such that if I am right, they are wrong, and vice-versa. But while I do not agree with the belief that Jesus was the messiah, I can’t imagine protesting a banner that expresses this Christian belief. I would oppose, of course, a banner that says, “All Jews/Christians are going to hell” or “Throw the Zionists/Palestinians into the sea”.
So while it is understandable that some Jewish students have a visceral response to the banner, I would hope that they would have the sensitivity to understand, even if they don’t agree, that Palestine is eternal for the Palestinians, just as the Land of Israel is eternal for the Jews.
As for the J Street students who think that such banners are “unhelpful” for a two-state solution, I ask, “Why so?” After all, even if the Palestinians accept a small, truncated state in Palestine, it will never replace Palestine for them, no more than that state will have any effect whatever on Eretz Yisrael for me.
What I am saying is not rocket science. I live in what will forever be Occupied Palestine for Palestinians, and Eretz Yisrael for Jews. I will not support any ideology that wants to bring chaos and suffering to people who are justifiably in their land. I will try to seek for solutions that will maximize justice.
To my fellow Jews I say right now – Palestine never went away and is not going away. Palestine remembered is Palestine forever. Please read my post here about how Jews should relate to Palestine.
After all, the primary victims of the Zionist movement have been the Palestinians – so if sensitivity is required, then sensitivity for the weaker and more aggrieved party is in order, isn’t it?