By Joharah Baker
Tomorrow marks the 64th anniversary of Al Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe of 1948. It is a day each year that Palestinians remember the calamity which befell them in order for the State of Israel to be born. The original 800,000 or so Palestinians who fled their homes in fear have now multiplied tenfold. There are over five million registered Palestinian refugees living in camps in Palestine and neighboring Arab countries. And every year, they remember their homes, their lands, and their lost lives to which they still long to return.
Al Nakba is very emotional for every Palestinian because it embodies the great injustices done to us and the failure to rectify them. This year, the emotions are even higher. Not only does this mark another year of loss and longing, it is a year when 2,000 of our children are starving behind Israeli bars, demanding their freedom and their dignity with the only weapon they have: their empty stomachs.
The refugees or their descendants, who still hold tight to the keys of their lost homes, and the prisoners who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country has driven home a point that has put everyone and everything else to shame.
Our cause is not about seats of power, titles and ministry portfolios; it is not about photo-ops or exploratory talks or visits to the White House. It is about a nation, a lost country, and a cause that – thanks to the dedication and passion of its people – will always be worth fighting for.
In these trying times, our people are more in need of unity than any other time. And as hard as this may seem, we should force ourselves to take a leaf out of Israel’s book. Just last week, Benjamin Netanyahu taught us all what shrewd politics is about. In a surprise move that took us all by storm, he teamed up with his opposition, Kadima, formed a broad-based national coalition government and avoided early elections, which could have cost him his position. No matter thatKadima and Likud go at it like cats and dogs, calling each other names and lobbing hurtful accusations back and forth. The future of Israel (and Netanyahu’s his own skin to boot) trumped all differences and the coalition was born.
The Palestinians have so much to learn. Not only has reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah evaded us all time and again, but even a “limited cabinet reshuffle” to use the words of PA officials, has yet to take place. They bicker and squabble and let their greed get the best of them all while the real struggle for Palestine is being courageously fought in the dank and dark cells of Israel’s occupation prisons and in the determined hearts of Palestine’s refugees.
The prisoners succeeded where their leaders have failed. They united ranks in their battle against their oppressor and they continue to fight side by side regardless of political affiliation. If only our leaders would do the same. Never mind which faction gets what ministry – they are all meaningless in the face of Israel’s occupation anyway. While the excuses and accusations continue endlessly, Palestine is being lost with each passing day. One look at the settlements spreading feverishly throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem proves this to be true.
Today we are at a crossroads. The prisoners, who will stop at nothing short of their just demands, have taught us a valuable lesson in resolve and passion. Likewise, the picture of a 95-year old man holding up the key to his lost home in pre-1948 Palestine is a reminder to us all that this is a cause worth fighting for because it is about dignity, a homeland and a people who will not surrender.
Indeed, this Nakba anniversary is very emotional for all Palestinians but it is a wake-up call as well.
All is not lost, as many skeptical Palestinian observers of the political scene may believe. There are so many among us – the prisoners, the people in the streets every day in solidarity with them, and the refugees who continue to say the names of their original villages when asked where they are from – who still keep Palestine whole in our hearts and minds. This is our chance to overcome this ridiculous state of affairs and see our struggle for what it is: simple and pure, it is the struggle for Palestine.