Gaza pullout--A Palestinian Perspective
As a Palestinian who became a refugee at a very young age, I have no doubt that the settlers who were evicted from the Gaza Strip have been deeply traumatized. As I flipped from one news broadcast to the other following the story, I couldn’t help but be moved by the tears of the Israeli children, who were born and raised in these settlements, trying to convince God and the soldiers to stop their eviction. These children have known no other home and many of them have difficulty understanding the political complexities that are determining their fate. Children continue to suffer for decisions made by supposedly intelligent adults. The tears of the settler children brought back to me memories of my family’s forced eviction years ago. I was touched by the agony of the children, especially because my six siblings and I ranged in age from one to eleven years when we were forced out of our home and joined the trail of tears of thousands of Palestinian refugees.
Although the suffering of children who are forced out from their homes is real and traumatic, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds, it is important to put the current pullout into perspective. I do this not to undermine or belittle the suffering of Israelis. My purpose is to fit this one piece into its rightful place within the larger mosaic of the dark saga of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Consider the following facts:
• For every Israeli child that was evicted from their home in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinian children were evicted from their homes in 1948 and in 1967. My siblings and I were among those refugee children.
• For every Israeli child that was evicted from their home in the Gaza Strip hundreds of Palestinian children saw their homes demolished in the Gaza Strip and consequently became homeless in their own neighborhoods.
• Israeli children were evicted by order of their own government that did its utmost to ensure that these children and their parents would have as safe and comfortable a transplant as possible. Not so when Palestinian children and their parents were forcibly evicted from their homes. Many of the Palestinian children lost one or both parents during those nightmarish evictions. My siblings and I lost our father.
• Israeli children who were recently evicted from the Gaza Strip have been moved to cities, towns, camps, and hotels that are equipped with all the necessities including fresh water, food, electricity, and shelter. Their parents will receive compensations of $250,000-$500,000 per family. They have much reason to be confident in their future outlook. Palestinian children who survived their expulsion were placed in open air refugee camps that had no running water, no electricity, no food, no beds, and no shelter. It took several months after their evictions in 1948 before the Red Cross provided tents for them. Their parents were never compensated, and they, now grown adults, know that it is even less likely that they will ever be compensated. They have picked up the tattered pieces of their lives, but what if they, like Israeli settlers, had been treated humanely? How would this have affected the politics of the region as a whole?
For the sake of future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children, adults who have the power to make crucial decisions regarding waging wars or making peace, building up or tearing down of settlements, must first ask themselves what would be the consequences of their actions on men, women, and children. Consider these questions:
• Who taught the settler children that all of historic Palestine including the Gaza Strip belongs exclusively to Jews by divine decree and that evicting Jews from these territories is equivalent to blasphemy against God?
• Where was the Israeli conscience and Jewish sense of political and social justice when their army gradually turned the Gaza Strip into the largest open air prison in the world, causing immense suffering and impoverishment to nearly half a million Palestinian children?
• Who will compensate Gaza’s Palestinian children for the death, destruction, impoverishment, and trauma that this mistake of Israeli occupation heaped upon them and their parents over a period of nearly 40 years?
I salute Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for fixing his and his country’s mistakes in the Gaza Strip and I hope for the sake of all Israeli and Palestinian children that he will correct his and his countries blunders in the West Bank.