Palestine Not Remembered

On the anniversary of the siege of Palestine, Palestinians worldwide forget to remember what is most important when marking this and every other past and future commemoration. They forget to fight for Palestine! They forget to fight the “right” fight.” They forget to raise their voices in unison advocating the noble cause for freedom through justice. They forget what it means to be One Palestinian People.

No one can undo “the Catastrophe” or “al Nakba” that befell the Palestinian people when an organized Jewish group called Zionists decided that they wanted a homeland for Jews to call their own—even if that homeland was already a vibrant and rooted homeland to a people of deep honor and respect. No amount of “spin” or denial will ever change what happened in 1948—the truth is the Palestinians were wronged.

The Palestinians of 1948 were a simple and yet principled people. They could not accept the Jewish people’s unfair method of forcefully taking their homes, freedom and prosperity through arrogance, violence and murder. They refused to be erased or ignored. Their will to persevere could not and would not be shaken, but, alas, today their honor and respect, the very virtues that defined them elude them. The outcome of constant beat down—both physically and mentally—by one of the most brutal and abusive occupations in modern times.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine has seen people displaced and living in refugee status—sometimes twice over. Yet, they have and continue to overcome obstacles placed in detriment to their survival. Forever waiting until justice prevails, they remain steadfast.

Israel’s occupation has and continues to kill people and destroy families. It demolishes homes and creates destruction and despair under the guise of entitlement. It is an occupation that choked the want-for-life out of otherwise viable young men and women who opted to kill themselves and other innocents espousing the violence they grew up in and unintentionally creating harm to their cause and families. They were children that grew up wanting to live; wanting freedom; wanting justice for their people. They were children that grew up without the tools or leadership to guide them to meet those goals. They left this world and their noble struggle robbed of the opportunity to understand the true concept of “give me liberty or give me death.”

The recent Israeli attack on the people of Gaza in retaliation for rockets launched by militants again saw Israelis break all international and moral codes. Israel’s unscrupulous leadership closed the borders of Gaza with willing neighbors as partners in crime. The unconscionable act of keeping people from fleeing to safety and stuck like fish in a barrel as Israeli planes dropped bombs on them and ground troops shot to kill is appalling. It left an overwhelming number of innocent people deliberately dead. In addition, it maimed, widowed and orphaned Palestinians who now find themselves alone, hungry, helpless and hopeless. And yet, the people of Gaza continue to be held captive without food, water, or access to medical care as was the case for years preceding Israel’s noxious operation and unilateral evacuation. The complacency of the world, void of absolute indignation and action, is inconceivable as the calendar pronounces 2009.

Occupation never ended in Gaza or anywhere else in the Palestinian territories. Palestinians have been denied fundamental necessities required to govern and live with the most basic of human rights.

It is time to remember that Palestinians are victims in this situation. Palestinians have suffered immeasurably. This is a conflict about land and can be solved. It is between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This conflict is about what the State of Israel has done to the Palestinian people for land. It is not about how Arab countries treated Jews in past, present or future. It is not about anti-Semitism. It should not negate the Zionist movement, based on the need for Jews to have a homeland of their own. A right people deserve, but not one that mandates the denial and demise of another people—the Palestinian people. The Holocaust perpetrated on innocent Jews and often referred to in manifestation and parallel to this conflict should provide the moral compass deterring deviations from the notion of “never again” no matter who the aggrieved.

Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel continues and, unfortunately, those hands have been aided by the hands of Palestinians themselves. This is what needs to be reflected on. The leaders and martyrs alike mean nothing when the people and land they gave their lives for cannot stand together. Their loss means nothing. Palestine will remain lost when their very own forget that they are all brothers and sisters whether Fattah or Hamas; Muslim or Christian, or any other ideology, faction or collection of groups.

The sanctity of the Holy Land should help guide the end to this conflict. It should touch the heart and soul of spiritual people everywhere. How can Israel strive to make the Holy Land a Jewish-only state, with Jewish only roads and areas? The racism of that declaration will keep all of the children of Abraham forever apart. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are rooted together in Jerusalem—a marker to all that seek its control. Religious claim to Jerusalem covers-up, whether knowingly or not, the plight of the Palestinians and subsequently the ability to bring about resolution through justice due them.

The fact that Palestinians are more divided today than united on the ground in Palestine and worldwide speaks to the profound loss of virtues that once defined the most noble of noble people in the Middle East.

Sadly, on yet another commemoration of Al Nakba, the Palestinians have forgotten what it means to be Palestinian.

Saffiya Shillo is a Palestinian American peace activist based in Chicago. She co-developed a dual narrative program with a Jewish American counterpart. Saffiya is a board member of the Palestinian American Women's Society and previously served as president of the Palestinian American Congress-Chicago chapter. She presently works as a sexual assault/domestic violence crisis counselor and bully prevention trainer. Shillo previously worked as Director of Ethnic Affairs for the State of Illinois’ Office of Lieutenant Governor and Director of the Arab American Institute's Chicago office.

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About Saffiya Shillo

Saffiya Shillo is a long time community activist serving on the boards of several agencies focused on bringing social awareness and advocacy to the Arab community in Chicago and nationally. She is immediate past-president of Arab American Family Services, a social service agency serving the Chicago area's American Arab and Muslim community. She has served as president of the Palestinian American Congress in Chicago and executive board member of the Palestinian American Women's Society of Chicago and American Task for on Palestine. She also devotes much of her time to working with her own community and the Jewish American community towards ending the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She previously worked as Director of Ethnic Affairs for the State of Illinois' Office of Lieutenant Governor and prior to that was Director of the Arab American Institute's Chicago office. She is a featured writer for the Arab American View Newspaper in Chicago and is very involved in Chicago's Arab community. She currently works as a domestic violence/sexual assault advocate and crisis counselor in the Chicago area for a mainstream social service agency. In addition to advocacy, she also does outreach to local government and social service providers that work with the Arab American community.

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