what makes us palestinian?


How do the palestinians of the diaspora identify themselves as palestinian? It is something I have always taken for granted, that even though I have never been to Palestine, and that I am half english, I am still Palestinian.

This is actually a PhD topic of someone I know… I met them through their research, I was referred to them as a test subject😀 We have met and talked about her research, and I found it very interesting. She asked about cultural aspects, and how we kept the palestinian culture alive. I realised that we collect Palestinian art, listen to Palestinian music, and cook Palestinian food quite often, my English mum is a deft hand at moulokhia, and her roast lamb is a treat! But really, is that all that Palestine means?

We talked some more, and I started telling her about the experiences of my Dad, when he was forced to flee his village in northern Lydd, and walk to Jerusalem. I gave her an almost first hand account of the pain and failure my Grandfather felt when seeing his 4 year old son (my dad) pick his way across Palestine. How pictures of Refugees in 1948 actually hurt me, as I feel ‘connected’ to them. I actually choked up when talking about my 2 aunts that died aged 2 and 4, from curable illnesses in the refugee camp, and how my 6 year old Dad survived the illness. She made an interesting comment: did I feel I needed to suffer to deserve to be Palestinian?

It shook me, especially as my narrative had been sparked by my observation that my children (should they ever materialise) would not have these first hand reports that I did. I remembered my cousin saying ‘we do not deserve to be Palestinian, look at the people suffering untold hardships, and tell me whether we deserve to call ourselves Palestinian’. Maybe we feel the need to suffer for Palestine to earn that badge of honour?

Then I thought of immigrant communities in Europe and USA, who integrate and their children lose the connection with their parents homeland. I never understood it, but now realise we are the odd ones out. We left our home at gunpoint, and our existence is at risk of being wiped out by the invaders. Maybe that is why we are driven to make the statement ‘we exist’. Maybe that is why I called this the Palestinian blog, not the british blog. Britain doesnt need me, Palestine does.

Note: an interesting compilation of interviews with Palestinian communities in the diaspora was recently published: http://www.civitas- online.org/ . Oxford collaboration headed by Karma Nabulsi.

8 Responses

  1. It’s sad, but it’s all part of a greater plan, you see, “the old will perish, and the young will forget” or so was the statement that Ben Gurion said, if I’m not mistaken

    IT’s all part of a larger plan!

  2. Are Palestinian’s living in diaspora in a unique position compared to other refugee/migrant/indigenous communities.

    Ask a Tamil, Tibetan, Kurd or any first nations person.

    My answer is no.

    I believe there are important lessons that can be learnt from each of the above narratives. But at it’s heart we are all human beings that can show amazing love to one another and at other times tremendous harm.

    Identity is an interesting thing.

    My take is we are multi-dimensional beings.

    We may may see ourselves through the eyes of gender, religious/non-religious identity, nationality, city person vs country person, sportsperson, music fan, vegetarian, bicycle rider etc..

    We choose to focus on one aspect of that being depending on the question or problem.

    My concern is there can be a danger to over-emphasise one aspect of our being, especially if we forget that first and foremost we are a human being.

    We are all born as a baby. We all have cried. We all have smiled. We all seek comfort and security.

    My ancestry is Scottish. My ancestors spoke Gaelic. They fought the English. They lost. Countless misery occurred as a result of that invasion.

    Today, I live in a country that was conquered by the English. The Aboriginal people were treated as sub-human.

    But what I am I to do today? Where is my home? My ancestors came in the 1850s, so I don’t have any rights to a British passport. But I am living on stolen land. What am I to do?

    Well firstly speak up for the marginalised and dispossessed. Whether they are communities in the land I was born in or communities in other parts of the world.

    Like you I have a strong sense of call for justice for Palestinians. There is much to be done to end the occupation of The West Bank and Gaza.

    But at the same time I urge caution and I urge people to consider the needs of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel.

    Today there are 4,853,017 Jews and 1,499,099 non-Jews (mostly Israeli Arabs [Palestinian Israelis]) living in Israel. There are a further 3,889,249 Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza combined (1,428,757 (July 2006 est.) in Gaza and 2,460,492 in West Bank (2004 est).

    This gives a total of 5,388,348 Arabs living in historic Palestine (i.e the Jewish community is 90% of the total population of this region).

    There are too many people in this region to try and force another group to leave. And violence either by IDF occupation or by suicide bombing or rocket attacks just perpetuates the fear and anger by another. Or the violence of building a wall or fence across one’s land, housing demolitions, settlement building all sow seeds of anger, fear and suspicion.

    My prayer is that people from all sides and factions will stop the violence. Violence only fuels further anger, hatred, suspicion and fear.

    My prayer is that people will acknowledge the wrongs of the past and seek new ways to live together as fellow human beings.

    Regards,

    Stewart Mills
    Sydney, Australia

    The following is a historical look at the rejection of the partition plan by the UN Security Council in April 1948
    http://palestineisraeltrusteeship.blogspot.com/

  3. Qwaider: I am sure that would play into Zionist ideology, but I dont see it happening, do you?🙂

  4. Hi Stewart,

    “Are Palestinian’s living in diaspora in a unique position compared to other refugee/migrant/indigenous communities.

    Ask a Tamil, Tibetan, Kurd or any first nations person.

    My answer is no.”

    I compared the Palestinian plight to those immigrants from established nations to make a point on the uniqness of a refugee of ethnic cleansing to immigrants/refugees of other reasons. Was not saying that the Palestinians are the only ones in this situation

    Identity is an interesting thing, and the question the researcher was aiming for, was what factors contribute to a 2nd, 3rd or 4th generatation refugee still identifying themselves as Palestinian.

    “We choose to focus on one aspect of that being depending on the question or problem.”

    Well, yes true.

    “My concern is there can be a danger to over-emphasise one aspect of our being, especially if we forget that first and foremost we are a human being.”

    No concerns really, everyone sub defines themselves… being human is apparent, but what else do we feel connected to? what affects us?

    “But what I am I to do today? Where is my home? My ancestors came in the 1850s, so I don’t have any rights to a British passport. But I am living on stolen land. What am I to do?”

    I know Australians who still feel connected to the UK, and the view on Australians is that they are laid back brits living in better weather🙂

    Australia is established, and yes I agree, what the english (half of heritage I may add :p) did was unforgivable. I personally do not know of the current state of the Aborigines, or what they want now to be able to comment. I do know that their community is still suffering the affects of english emmigration in the 1800s. The question is, do you as an X generation australian hold responsibility for the actions of ut forefathers? No, but if (and I stress my ignorance of australian affairs) current injustices being suffered by Aborigines by current gvmnt then yes, something should be done. I know in the UK, the history of the slave trade and the adverse affects of the british empire are not taught much. But they should, to prevent a repeat of such actions.

    “Well firstly speak up for the marginalised and dispossessed. Whether they are communities in the land I was born in or communities in other parts of the world.”

    That is noble of you, especially since you can choose the easy life and not bother.

    “But at the same time I urge caution and I urge people to consider the needs of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel.”

    Theire needs were not marginalised prior to the occupation of palestine, remember that Jews made up part of Palestinian people. This is something that is acknowledged by Jewish groups (www.nkusa.org).

    “This gives a total of 5,388,348 Arabs living in historic Palestine (i.e the Jewish community is 90% of the total population of this region). There are too many people in this region to try and force another group to leave. And violence either by IDF occupation or by suicide bombing or rocket attacks just perpetuates the fear and anger by another. Or the violence of building a wall or fence across one’s land, housing demolitions, settlement building all sow seeds of anger, fear and suspicion.”

    Ok, 90% are Jewish, I shant check the statistic. But if their population is so saturated that they cannot honor the right of the 4 million refugees to return, why do they have campaigns to encourage more people to move there (Jews of course, of the non-palestinians kind). No, the expulsion of the current inhabitants is not on the agenda, right of return is.

    The end of violence would be welcome, and some breathing space + reimbursement for what was damaged, namely the infrastructure so that people can rebuild their lives, will be a step towards some quiet at least.

    Apologies for my delay in responding, have been a bit lazy these days🙂

  5. Britain doesnt need me, Palestine does.

    That sumes it all up. You knwo I think it’s much easier when you are half-Palestinian half-any toehr nationality when compared to half-Palestinain half-Jordanian, because I can’t lie to myself by saying I love Palestine more than Jordan. I love Palestine, but I don’t think I will ever want to live outside Jordan. It’s a dellimma, because I feel Jordanian as much as I feel Palestinian, I was born and raised here, what is home anyway? maybe if I originated form soem country other than Palestine I would be sa-yin that I’m Jordanian, because this is where I was born, raised, but I think being Palestinian is a different case, we were forced out, and we need to stay attached to that land, we need to assert our identity and existence as Palestinains, so what the jews said would never come true: “The old die, and the young forget”… Not even in your dreams!

  6. I dont know really, sometimes being half and half (like a mutant :p) means you never totally fit in, and yet you feel belong in many places😀

    I agree, if Palestine had not been in my ancestral line, maybe my take on identity would be different…and I would choose more practical lines with which to define myself or align myself.

    I like being half/half though, especially since the halves are so different, lends a touch of exoticism to my life, and make me hard to ‘pin down’… also much more fun to pick and choose form the cultures and create a patchwork culture of my own😀

    With regards to ur last statement, I agree, Palestine is ingrained in us, even if my (imaginery) childrens dad is not palestinian or arab, I will transfer a sense of belonging to palestine to them… through narratives of their grandfather and greatgranparents, through my own inheritence of palestinian culture of resistence. Through my emotional connection to the place.

  7. I do not think anything will make me palestinian. My connection to filisteen is al-Quds. What connects me to palestine is that it’s right is for the Muslimeen. May Allaah rectify what occurs in Palestine and guide the Ummah to the Sunnah.

  8. well, Muslims in general have a stake/duty to Palestine and the people, as they would to anyone suffering.

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