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68 years since Nakba – is a viable solution in sight?

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As we commemorate Nakba Day, the great catastrophe of the Palestinian exodus from what is today referred to as Israel Proper, we mourn the loss of innocent lives in the struggle toward Palestinians self-determination.

The Nakba resulted in 80 per cent of Palestinians becoming refugees, fleeing to the West bank, the Gaza strip, and surrounding countries. The rest stayed behind in Israel, where they lived under military rule without rights, until they were given Israeli citizenship in 1967, but continue to live as second-rate citizens.

We now look to the future for viable solutions to end the occupation of Palestinian lands.

What does the Nakba represent for the two peoples

A Palestinian who resides in Israel Proper, Mohammad Sami, explained that the effects of the Nakba are currently experienced and, therefore, goes beyond one day.

“It is a reminder that the refugees are not back yet, that atrocities are still continuing in Palestine, and that the system of discrimination is still in place,” Sami said.

An Israeli Jew, Nicola Wright, explained that she only learnt about the Nakba in her late teens. Before that, her only knowledge of the situation related to the existence of war.

Though she currently advocates for the human rights of Palestinians in all territories, Wright acknowledged that as an Israeli Jew, it took her years to understand the plight of Palestinians.

“Most people in Israel have no idea what the Nakba represents. It is, therefore, very difficult for people to understand that the day of their celebration is someone else’s nightmare – when they had lost everything.”

Seeking a viable solution

Sami explained that the two-state solution, which would detail a complete separation of nations, is a “dead solution.”

“I see it as a two-state problem, because of its viability and because it is not a just solution for the Palestinians.”

He further noted that the Palestinian people should lead the way forward in order to facilitate a means for them to be granted the right to self-determination.

Sami, therefore, advocates for a one-state solution, where Muslim, Jews, and Christians are able to live in peace in one state.

He further noted that despite the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, all parties need to be involved in the mechanisms of reconciliation.

He said that at present the prospect of unity between Hamas and Fatah seems unrealistic, but that there is a need to redefine the Palestinian national project, and that this will assist with international solidarity coordination.

A Palestinian who resides in Israel Proper, Abdallah Grifat, explained that while no solution would be completely just toward the Palestinians, a one-state solution is the “most just” solution.

He described the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as worse than the Apartheid system experienced in South Africa since Israeli authorizes continue to ignore calls that it is, in fact, a racist regime.

“If we choose a two-state solution, it will be in favour of the Zionist regime – the neo-Apartheid regime. The one state solution, though a compromise by Palestinians, is better than having nothing,” Grifat said.

Wright explained that the two-state solution will further entrench segregation between the two communities, who previously lived as neighbours.

“We hope for a one-state solution, where all people can live together as one people.”

She said that the Israeli Jewish community is not naturally racist. Instead, there continued support of the Zionist Regime is due to ignorance.

The right of return

Today, there are approximately 12 million Palestinians worldwide; the role of the right of return for refugees, therefore, plays a key role in the structuring of the solution.

Grifat explained that the issue of the right of return needs to be dealt with in future, since large volumes of Palestinian land is currently occupied by illegal settlers.

“For now, it is about achieving a solution, but detailing the plan for the right of return should come later,” he said.

With regards to the willingness of illegal settlers to forsake the land that belongs to Palestinians, Wright said that no landowner forgoes land willingly, both in the South African context and elsewhere.

“As much I would like to say that all Palestinians deserve to come back to their former houses, rationally we should apply the right of return in a more organized way. The right of the return should, therefore, be one of the main points when developing a one state solution,” Wright said.

Are Palestinians willing to live as one nation with Israeli Jews?

 Grifat said that many Palestinian’s question their ability to accept having to live side-by-side with those who have killed their families and stolen their lands.

He further noted that, while South Africa enjoys democracy, the country continues to show evidence of anger amongst the population. Therefore, indicating that a one-state solution may not completely dispel the memory of oppression.

“Would Palestinian’s be able to live together with people who knew that they are carrying out these atrocities against innocent people? – I think it’s difficult, but to end the atrocities, we have to compromise,” Grifat said.

 Would Palestinians be able to forgive the atrocities of the past in order to reach a solution?

The deputy minister for foreign relations for Fatah, Ambassador Afif Safieh, explained that in the Palestinian discourse the oppression is difficult to describe.

“In our Palestinian problem, the victim moved faster than the oppressor toward mutual recognition and in our case, it is intriguing that the oppressor hates the victim much more than the victim hates the oppressor.”

He said that while the similarities between apartheid-South Africa and the Zionist regime are “enormous,” Zionism was an imported ideology from Europe and provoked the displacement of the Palestinian population.

This situation, therefore, provides Palestinians with a complex situation, where accepting reform as a one-state solution would include dealing with a physical dispossession, since Palestinians continue to identify themselves as having a physical space, a piece of land, or a home in Palestinian lands.

“Zionism inflicted a double human migration – the incomers and the driven out.”

Spokesperson for Hamas, Husam Badran, explained that Palestinians are seeking their rights, and not revenge. And once the occupation is over, Palestinians are willing to forgive and more forward.

As Palestinians enter their 68th year of occupation, we ask: Have Palestinians lost hope?

Sami said that while despair is natural in situations of oppression, it is not the predominant theme in Palestine.

“There is hope because it is a cause that is worth fighting for. We have a lot of support in the international community, which we must increase and maximize. I have hope that we will achieve freedom.”

In the words of the German philosopher, Georg Hegel, in his assessment of humankind: “From history, we learn that we have not learnt from history.”

These words echo the plight of the heroes of the past who reminded us to work toward improving the state of humanity for the benefit of future generations.

VOC (Thakira Desai)



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