Alternative Palestinian Agenda
Speech at rally for Palestine in Madison, Wisconsin
March 15, 2002
As all of you have seen on the television screen, the Israeli apartheid regime has escalated its crimes against the people of Palestine. We the Palestinians grew up with these images and harsh realities. Images of the Israeli forces' brutality revive hard experiences in every Palestinian that grew up under the ruthless Israeli occupation.
I can't help but place myself in the situation of these children, as I, too, was nearly beaten to death at the hands of Israeli soldiers. I, too, was blindfolded and numbered and subject to such collective punishment in my village and in my high school. I, too, was made to run for my life in front of the Israeli tanks with live ammunition being shot around me.
I went through this in the 70's and early 80's and Palestinian children are still going through it into the 21st century. Some of us die at the hands of the Israeli soldiers, some of us become bitter fighters, some of us solidify as strong human rights activists, and some of us explode. They can turn us into violent fighters, they can turn us into suicide bombers, but they will never make us accept their apartheid system over Palestine.
What I want to talk to you about today, my fellow activists, is that to struggle for peace in Palestine-Israel, we must address the fundamentals of the conflict and that is not simply ending the occupation. The Israeli occupation is a necessity to the Zionist regime to maintain its apartheid system over Palestine. To end the occupation, we must question the inherent contradiction in the state of Israel as a Jewish state in Palestine, a land that happens to be inhabited by non-Jews.
We cannot be shy of recognizing injustice when we see it even if the perpetrators have suffered their own injustices throughout history. Palestinians had no part in the atrocities committed against the Jews in Europe and yet were made to pay the highest price for the Western world's debt. Do not accept to be silenced by the card of history.
We recognize and accept that despite the injustices against the Palestinians in the making of the state of Israel, a new native Israeli identity has emerged, whose homeland is our Palestine. But there is no space that the Israelis occupy that is not ours, too. So to end the occupation by pulling back the tanks a few meters does not solve the problem. The problem is in the maintenance of an exclusive Jewish state in a land that is equally inhabited by non-Jews. This discrepancy will continue to be challenged.
Today we must make a distinction between the Israeli who wants to live in Palestine alongside the native inhabitants of Palestine and the Israeli who can only live in Palestine by denying life to the Palestinian. We will not give up our own existence to make room for them to exist. If they do not find a way for themselves to coexist with us in our homeland and continue to define their existence based on our exclusion from our homeland, we will continue to defy and fight their existence in Palestine.
Does the Polish Jew have more right to Haifa than the Palestinian? Does the Russian Jew have more right to Jaffa than the Palestinian? Does the American Jew have more right to the hills of the West Bank that have become settlements than the Palestinian? The occupation is in place to maintain this apartheid Jewish state in Palestine.
We must recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are integral components of a shared space and the solution to the conflict lies in ending the apartheid regime in Israel. As we struggled together and defeated the apartheid regime in South Africa, we Palestinians and Israelis and supporters of democracy and peace around the world must stand together to struggle against the apartheid regime in Israel.
Only when Palestinians and Israelis recognize that we are destined to a common future can we develop a real agenda of peace, one that is based on equal democratic rights and security for all, regardless of ethnicity or religion. As long as Israel maintains an apartheid state, the occupation will not end, even if the tanks pull back. So let's make our slogan, "Free Palestine: End the Apartheid Regime in Israel" so we can pave the way for those who chose to live in peace.