Samia Nasir Khouri boldly calls out Israel for a list of human rights violations and indignities perpetrated on Palestinians during the 70 years of its celebrated existence, including eviction, massacre, apartheid, and a brutal army regime. She then offers a prayer of blessing on the dispossessed and repentance for the dispossessors from Rabbi Brant Rosen.
By Samia Nasir Khouri, Reflections on Palestine
Congratulations Israel on your 70th Independence Day. Surely you should be proud of your achievements.
- You established your state on land that belongs to the Palestinians. You were not satisfied to share with them their land, so you had to evict them to have your own Jewish state. You did that by resorting to brutal force, and in some cases massacres that remain a black spot in your history.
- For the first eighteen years, you imposed strict military rule in the country which controlled every aspect of the lives of the original owners of the land who managed to stay in the newly established state.
- You gave the indigenous Palestinian population citizenship, but they did not have the same rights that the Jewish community had, neither did their towns or schools have the same privileges and budgets
- Moreover, by some absurd law, this Palestinian population ended up being “present absent” meaning that they were absent as far as their right to claim their homes and property, but were present for paying taxes to the newly established State.
- For the last 50 years, you have been occupying the rest of the Palestinian land which you did not succeed in conquering in 1948.
- You claim you are not occupying the land, but that you have liberated it. And you claim that Jerusalem is the united eternal capital of Israel, yet:
- The residents of the West Bank have no access to Jerusalem except for certain purposes and on certain occasions.
- The residents of Jerusalem are not citizens and their residency can be revoked any time under a variety of absurd regulations.
- The residents of Jerusalem are deprived of having their spouses join them should they be from the West Bank without going through an endless procedure of family reunification which is mostly denied even after many years of marriage.
- It takes for ever and sometimes never for a Jerusalem resident to get a building permit whereas the Jewish settlements have encroached on most of the Jerusalem and West Bank Land. So demolishing homes and confiscating land in the Palestinian areas is very common.
- Over and above you already have a population of around two million living under siege in Gaza. Although you claim to have withdrawn from Gaza you continue to control its borders, land, sea and sky.
- You claim to have the most moral army in the world yet your soldiers raid homes at night and get children out of their beds. You already have 350 children in your jails and -6500 men and women, many of whom are under administrative detention without charge or trial, and around 1000 of them are sick.
- You claim to be the only democracy in the region. Yet you have two sets of laws for your own citizens. And you deny entry to anybody including Jews and even Rabbis who do not agree with your policies. This is certainly not a democracy. Over and above you silence voices of dissent in your own country and you imprison young people who do not wish to serve in the army.
- You claim your hand is stretched out for peace, yet every day your armed settlers are grabbing new areas with the protection of your army. Barak’s generous offer with which you brain-washed the world and your own citizens amounts only to a little over 15% of historic Palestine instead of the 22% on which the Palestinians were willing to establish their new state after the Oslo agreement.
Of course you can always count on President Trump and his representative at the UN Nikki Haley to cover your back so as to get away with those violations. No wonder you are feeling on top of the world as you are celebrating 70 years of Independence while we celebrate 70 years of our Nakba (the catastrophe of dispossession.)
Maybe you should stop for a moment and listen to the prayer of one of your Jewish Rabbis, Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Le’el she’chafetz teshuvah,
to the One who desires return:
Receive with the fulness of your mercy
the hopes and prayers of those
who were uprooted, dispossessed
and expelled from their homes
during the devastation of the Nakba.
Sanctify for tov u’veracha,
for goodness and blessing,
the memory of those who were killed
in Lydda, in Haifa, in Beisan, in Deir Yassin
and so many other villages and cities
Grant chesed ve’rachamim,
kindness and blessing,
upon the memory of the expelled
who died from hunger,
thirst and exhaustion
along the way.
Shelter beneath kanfei ha’shechinah,
the soft wings of your divine presence,
those who still live under military occupation,
who dwell in refugee camps,
those dispersed throughout the world
still dreaming of return.
Gather them mei’arbah kanfot ha’aretz
from the four corners of the earth
that their right to return to their homes
be honored at long last.
Let all who dwell in the land
live in dignity, equity and hope
so that they may bequeath to their children
a future of justice and peace.
and let us say,
Le’el she’chafetz teshuvah,
to the One who desires repentance:
Inspire us to make a full accounting
of the wrongdoing that was
committed in our name.
Help us to face the terrible truth of the Nakba
and its ongoing injustice
that we may finally confess our offenses;
that we may finally move toward a future
of reparation and reconciliation.
Le’el malei rachamim,
to the One filled with compassion:
show us how to understand the pain
that compelled our people to inflict
such suffering upon another –
dispossessing families from their homes
in the vain hope of safety and security
for our own.
Maker of peace,
guide us all toward a place
of healing and wholeness
that the land may be filled
with the sounds of joy and gladness
from the river to the sea
speedily in our day.
and let us say,
Samia Khouri is the author of “Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope.”