I demand more than a state with a lowercase ‘s’

Although the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid has received its fair share of international support, I can’t say that it represents my hopes, my ambitions, or my idea of a free Palestine. Analysts and experts will argue that the issue of Palestinian statehood and self-sovereignty is complicated, that it requires concessions, bargains, negotiations, and sheer luck, that any other alternative would be too idealistic. I disagree, partially because it isn’t complicated at all, but especially because these claims present Palestinians as a sacrificial bunch that only require a certain percentage of rights. My people did not overcome occupation for six decades to settle for a state with a lowercase ‘s’ or freedom with a lowercase ‘f’.

I understand that I don’t speak for every Palestinian in the world, but I do have my own idea of statehood that most certainly resonates with the ultimate goal of our efforts. It’s a state unbound by political strangleholds and guided by the concepts of accountability, equality, and justice. It is by no means a revolutionary idea — we’ve all thought about it more or less. But with the current bid for statehood being used under my name and the names of millions of Palestinians worldwide, it is time to formally present an alternative and more adequate solution. This is an issue of principle, and even if takes twice as long to achieve, this is the Palestine I hope to see.

The most crucial element of a Palestinian future is to do away with a “bid”. I, as a human being, feel no need to circulate a petition in support of my own personal and guaranteed rights. I will not ask permission to exist as an equal nor will I auction off my rights to the highest bidder. Countries have declared unilateral independence in the past and this standard approach cannot be left out of the equation in order to appease the opposition.

This boldness might appear shortsighted. A unilateral declaration would inevitably lead to an invasion, but this will only justify the necessity for a free and secure state outside of the current system of oppression. Isn’t this the very same excuse Israel used in 1948?

Luckily, none of that will be necessary. The Palestinian struggle is intentionally misunderstood as a movement to establish the prominence of the Palestinian people at the expense of all others, especially Jews. This cannot be any more wrong. The free Palestinian state I envision will not follow the models set forth by Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, and any other Israeli leader intent on putting Palestinians down. In my case, the law — including the Right of Return and freedom of expression — will apply to all. Security will be guaranteed for all. The public transit system will be accessible to all. Residential areas will be open for all. Religious freedoms will be ensured for all. Human and civil rights will be afforded to all. The apartheid wall will fall, and so will anything attached to it and the occupation that attempts to poison the Palestinian identity.

Since well before the inception of the Israeli state in 1948, Palestinian autonomy has been marginalized and consequently mismanaged in the form of contractual dealings that ignore the voices of the actual Palestinian people. Refugees are still to this day pushed to the side and spoken about as statistics with no demands of their own. Israeli settlers are allowed to sidestep international law and construct homes within the current Palestinian territories but Palestinians are prevented from expanding beyond Israel’s encroaching concrete wall or moving beyond checkpoints and bulldozers. The only precondition, it seems, is that Palestinians abandon all of theirs. But there is one condition we will never abandon: our Palestinian identity, an identity we will proudly express in the most liberated manner possible.

Palestinians will embody the total opposite of what bigots take us to be. Whether we have different neighbors near our borders or near our physical houses, we will be at the forefront of establishing a just solution to the occupation for everyone in the region. Just as the people of Palestine have done for over a half century, we will rightfully wage war against the racism and intolerance propped up by hypocrisy and double standards. Once this battle is complete, the occupation will be defeated. What happens next is in our hands, and we are under no obligation to “bid” for permission to live as free and secure men and women.

Negotiations, bids, high profile meetings, and summits all appear to be concerned with peace. True, this might be the most practical approach but it is definitely not good enough. My vision of a Palestinian state is certainly idealistic but it is not impractical and it is definitely not impossible.

I believe in equality, accountability, and justice according to the law as it applies to all. So long as we continue to frame our future around these tenets, we will succeed in doing what a dozen United Nations bids for statehood can never do. It really is that simple: follow the law, treat people as equals, and rather than sacrificing certain aspects of the Palestinian identity as if they don’t matter or are somehow something to be ashamed of, take pride in the fact that they will be more beneficial to humanity than an indefinite and illegal military occupation.

Sami Kishawi


There are 2 comments

  1. Jumana

    I must say, your writing is laudable. You’ve managed to hit the perfect pitch, mixing fact and precisely-controlled emotion. You represent by taking on the character of a collective “we”, which, in my opinion, is what is particularly striking about this all. Kudos.

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