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Settlers and Palestinians - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ever since they moved in place of indigenous Palestinians, Israeli settlers hardly got a shred of the feelings those Palestinians experienced when they were forced out of their forefathers” lands. This is except –probably- for the nostalgia Israeli settlers feel for the many different countries they left behind; un-consoled by the new welcoming state and the new comfortable homes it seized for them. Unlike Palestinians, the Israeli settlers were not driven out of their countries by ethnic cleansing massacres, such as Kafr Kasim and Dei Yasin, to mention only a few. They left willingly to inherit the land, sky and history of a nation that now lives behind bars and barbed wires. Those are only few differences between the Palestinian owners of the land who became refugees, and the Israeli citizens of the world who became settlers. Most remarkable, however, is the difference between the general international reactions towards evicting the Palestinians out of their rightful lands, and relocating Israeli settlers into new settlements on the same occupied lands.

In a meeting of a fifty-two Jewish organizations in Washington D.C., the congregation held special prayer for the settlers who &#34are leaving their homes and communities and way of living.&#34 I can only wonder, if the Palestinian refugees, forced out of their homes under the threat of arms, will ever be mentioned in their prayers. I also wonder if the &#34free&#34 media of the &#34civilized&#34 world, trumpeting the pain of the relocating settlers, will ever remember the tragedy of the Palestinians separated from their lands and waters by the Apartheid Wall, or ever champion their rights?

In a New York Times” article, James Bennett writes that &#34the settlements are part of the landscape in Gaza, and the imposed restrictions are part of life there. It is hard for the ordinary visitor to imagine their absence.&#34 It must be rather hard for Mr. Bennett to imagine how far the Palestinian original landowners would differ with him. In the very same article, Mr. Bennett mentions the Palestinian child Muhammad Bashir (twelve years) saying that he dreams, once the settlers have moved out, to go back to his home on the second floor that was occupied by Israelis five years ago because it overlooked the settlement of Kafr Darom. Sharon will destroy the latter settlement after evacuation to make sure that the Palestinians will not use it. Bennett also mentions Haya Bashir (also twelve) whose dream is to play again on the street with other children, because ever since Israeli soldiers occupied her neighborhood and closed the streets with barbed wires, she could only play at home in fear of Israeli snipers among both Israeli settlers and soldiers. Another dream mentioned is that of Madeeha Abu al-Nada (46), it is to get back her occupied land and make it green again.

Once he has bypassed these heart-wrenching dreams of the most basic of human rights, Bennett dwells on his grief over the change in the landscape incurred by relocating the settlements. He laments even more the lot of the Israeli settlers who are no more than &#34ambitious people who dreamt of staying in Gaza for ever.&#34 In his article, there are apparently two kinds of people; those who have the right to live wherever and however they desire, and should be compensated with millions of dollars in all cases, and those who have no right to their own homes, lands and playgrounds, and should not resist their deprivation of those rights.

The debate goes on, while the occupation still control there. Israelis are still in control the land, sky and sea in Gaza, and planning to control more lands. The Israeli meanwhile are destroying the houses they are leaving behind, poisoning the wells, and burning the farms to make life impossible for the Palestinians who will move in. Yet, the New York Times describes the Israeli Occupation Forces as &#34prisoners of the occupation&#34 who will be &#34liberated by the withdrawal,&#34 while accusing the occupied of being &#34aggressors.&#34 Over six decades, the &#34civilized&#34 world has watched silently nine thousand Israeli settlers destroying the life of a million Palestinians in Gaza, and two hundred thousand new coming settlers destroying the life of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank. We still, however, insist on calling the &#34silent&#34 watcher &#34civilized,&#34 even while it adopts the same racist perspective that drives the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians championed by a mother”s advice to &#34never trust Arabs.&#34

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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