Nora Arsenian Carmi: What do Palestinians want?
This week the Peace Doers blog is honored to have Nora Arsenian Carmi as guest writer on the topic of “What Palestinians Want”. Nora Arsenian-Carmi was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, a few months before the establishment of Israel. Since 1967, she has been a permanent resident of East Jerusalem. Conflict is something she is very familiar with considering her Armenian heritage. Her family survived the genocide of 1915. Carmi served as a community builder in various religious and security civil society circles. She worked with the YWCA, Sabeel, Liberation Theology Center and Kairos Palestine for more than 37 years. She remains closely connected with the World Council of Churches (WCC) assemblies and events and participates in several global church involvements.
We have been hearing this question for over a hundred years and our answer has not really changed during the largely non-violent struggle of the indigenous people, the Palestinian people, who have been evicted and expelled from the homeland, in the geographic region named “Palestina” by the Romans, have experienced living under occupation and are dispersed in the four corners of the world.
Coming from the land where the promise of peace was proclaimed over 2000 years ago, “peace on earth and good will to men” the answer is obviously simple. Like all peoples, Palestinians need to be recognized as human beings who are entitled to full national, political, economic, social and religious rights as mandated by all international laws and declarations. The Palestinians are not a lesser people and are not asking for special privileges.
2017 marks painful milestones that have shaped and torn the region: 100 years of the unfair Balfour Declaration that promised a homeland to the Jewish people (please see below), 70 years of the partition plan of the land and the establishment of Israel mythically “on a land without people”; the eviction/ expulsion of the rightful inhabitants known as Nakba; 50 years of the Israeli Occupation of the remaining 22% of historic Palestine including East Jerusalem, the West Bank of the River Jordan and the Gaza Strip; 30 years of the first uprising intifada and ten years of the tearing dissent among Palestinian parties in Gaza and Ramallah.
Some Western countries wonder: Why cannot the Palestinians accept to live as second-class/third class citizens, humiliated, oppressed and subjugated to the “only democracy” in the region, in a state that considers Palestinians a lesser people, in a state for Jews alone?
How can there be peace in Palestine/Israel when we are still striving for justice and equity, and struggling to remove the strangulating yoke around our neck of land grab and expanding settlements, theft of water, ecological pollution, and the lack of free access to health, education, culture, and worship in our holy sites? We are still experiencing dispossession, home demolitions, incarceration, torture and the maiming and extrajudicial killing of our children. For the sake of peace, in 1988 the Palestinian people recognized the Israeli state and accepted to live as neighbors on 22% of historic Palestine. In the meantime, the occupying Israeli Authorities are refusing or jeopardizing all possible peace efforts by genuine peace doers, religious bodies and human rights groups over the globe. Endless peace talks, conferences, initiatives and international decisions (ESCWA and UN decisions!) have not yielded positive results. Our cry for life with dignity has fallen on deaf ears.
So why is it so hard to see the Palestinian people as equal human beings created in the same image of God, deeply rooted in a land where prophets and ancestors tried to strive for justice? Why is it that not only the two peoples of the land but the rest of the world still do not understand “the things that make for peace” or those who perhaps understand, do not have the courage to do what is right.
In a world where moral values and ethics have been replaced with military and monetary interests, where the powerful states and decision –makers dictate, create and shape a world according to their own vision of “divide and rule”, fake brokers simulate ignoring the real causes of dissent and cosmetically manage the existing status quo, gaining benefits from the suffering of peoples. Unfortunately, peace-doers sometimes appear to be complacent to that, as well as official bodies, states, and even churches.
If the world community finally decides and wills to put real pressure on the State of Israel and we wake up tomorrow to see an end to the Israeli occupation, the hafrada/separation wall crumbled and Israel finally capitulated to justice for the oppressed and more important for itself and future generations to live in real security, many of the problems here and in the region will be solved.
The 2009 Palestinian Kairos Document, a Moment of truth: faith hope and love sent a message to the whole world about sound theological beliefs, principles of equity, respect and a road map where the human being is at the core. Palestinians are human too and refuse to be demeaned or dehumanized. Acknowledgement of wrongs done, recognition of rights and a willingness to respect each other, and enjoying the diversity that can enrich us is the way to go forward in the “promising” land created by God who is love and not a God of war, occupation or injustice.
For Palestine as an independent state, its people need to live according to the 1988 declaration of independence, a secular, democratic state based on equal citizenship, security for all its citizens, gender equity, and ending painful party divisions. 1
Like all peoples, the Palestinians want to live freely, experience their culture and prosper without the constant threat of annihilation hovering above their heads through different restrictions and tactics imposed upon them.
After 50 years of occupation, will the year 2017 be a year of jubilee and mercy? We, Palestinians yearn for the liberation of land and people. Only when we accept each other’s humanity and rights, the world will become a better place for all.
Nora Armenian Carmi
The Balfour Declaration was a single paragraph in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:
His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.