Middle East Eye / May 24, 2023
Seventy-five years since the Nakba, Palestinians must demand their right of return – and Israelis should join the quest towards a more just future.
It has been 75 years since the Nakba, the violent expulsion of Palestinians from their historic homeland by Jewish terrorist gangs gathered around a colonial ideology called Zionism. Decades on, the Palestinian cause for liberation remains as noble, righteous and just as it has ever been.
With a barefaced sense of self-entitlement, Zionists took a page from the history of European colonialism – but unlike past occupations by the British, French, Spanish and others, the Israelis continue their occupation to this day, as the country’s leaders work to expand their garrison state.
It seems Palestinians have been selected as the sole bearers of the truth of colonialism, which to this day, European states either deny, dismiss or minimize, amid their collective guilt for having robbed the world blind.
Indeed, Israel is European colonial conquest on display. As the British crowned King Charles III, many have pointed out that some of the crown jewels were stolen from other nations – but Israel, invented by British colonial designs, remains the most glaring stain on that crown.
Today, the Palestinian cause has become the centrepiece of Arab and Muslim identity. Meanwhile, the idea of Israel as a “Jewish homeland” has become the grandest of all propaganda slogans of Zionism, whose mass media industry continues to churn out hasbara to justify the brutish violence of an apartheid state.
Apologists spin every one of Israel’s vulgar behaviours in a way that sustains the lie that it is a “democracy”. But if a violent settler colony sitting on the broken back of a defiant nation is a “democracy”, then no decent human being should want anything to do with that term.
Against this avalanche of lies and deceit, we must recall the towering figure of Edward Said, long a champion for the Palestinian cause. For boldly speaking truth to power, he was demonized and attacked – but his flourishing legacy is testament to the strength and endurance of the Palestinian cause.
The credit for the past 75 years of triumphant resistance goes first and foremost to every Palestinian man, woman and child who has pushed back against the eradication of their homeland on a daily, unrelenting basis, through their Arabic language, glorious cuisine, folklore, music, arts, poetry, film, fiction, culture and daily labours of love.
Countless Palestinian artists, musicians, poets, filmmakers, historians and scholars have reached great heights around the world. The Palestinian cause is no longer a “narrative”; it is the truth.
For many years, the Zionists had cornered the market with their false versions of what had happened in Palestine. Anyone who dared to question this view would be branded an antisemite, a term that has been used and abused to stifle legitimate criticisms of Israel. Under this logic, critiques of Israel and Zionism are conflated with antisemitism. This is like calling me Islamophobic because I severely criticize Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The best evidence of the righteous cause of the Palestinian people is Israel itself. While there are bold and brilliant Israeli scholars, historians, artists and human rights groups who loudly and clearly defend the cause of the Palestinian people, the state itself continues to engage in racist and criminal behaviours.
In Israel, the world sees not just the righteousness of the Palestinian cause, but the pernicious character of European colonialism – especially in light of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s recent remarks about Israel “making the desert bloom”, a thoroughly racist trope.
The fate of millions of Israelis and Palestinians, both within and outside of their homeland, demands a bold and defiant solution that has been staring the world in its face. With the prolonged occupation of Palestine, all Palestinians have been turned into second- and third-class inhabitants of their own land. This has transformed the Palestinian national liberation movement into a civil rights movement.
The right of return is the inalienable right of all Palestinians, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is the single most effective, nonviolent act of civil disobedience to demand and exact that right.
Israelis, too, have a choice: continue living on the bloody battlefields of a misbegotten ideology, now spearheaded by the most racist zealots in the Knesset, or join Palestinians to recast their mutual future in more decent, civilized, just and democratic terms.
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he teaches Comparative Literature, World Cinema, and Postcolonial Theory