As a Palestinian exile who has been living in Europe for most of his life, I can discern a striking similarity in the way the Palestinian problem is presented in today’s American media and how it was portrayed in European media in the early 1970s. Back then, there was rarely a reference that Israel was built on the systematic and premeditated destruction of Palestinian homes and farms, that Palestinians were expelled from their land to make room for Jewish immigrants, and that terrorism developed as a peculiarly Zionist specialty. In short, there was no reference that Israel came into existence by the negation of the Palestinians and their right to nationhood. Israel was commonly perceived as a “modern state struggling for its own security”. Its oppressive practices against those Palestinians who managed to stay on after the creation of the state in 1948, and Israel’s aggression against its Arab neighbours, were invariably ignored or excused. Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes was also accepted, or at best left unchallenged.
Happily- with the exception of the United States and a handful of other countries- there is now a general recognition of the injustices committed against the Palestinians. This sea change in the perception of the Palestinian question came about largely as a result of the exponential growth, both quantitatively and qualitatively, of civil society worldwide.
With time and globalization, more voices are now rising, including those of a growing number of eminent Jewish personalities, calling for an overdue redress of these injustices. Thanks to the Internet, the monopolistic grip that the Western media once had on information has loosened. Alternative outlets now courageously offer in-depth coverage of Israeli human rights violations, documenting specific cases of torture of Palestinian prisoners and the unlawful confiscation of land and property.
In addition to today’s expanding networked society, better information and communication technology systems mean more voices can be heard and have impact.
With means of communication now available, it is time to work toward the peaceful restoration of the Palestinian peoples’ rights and build a future in which Palestinians live in dignity, in freedom, where all their human rights including their inalienable right to self-determination are recognized and respected, and where they are adequately compensated for all the human suffering and the material losses they have endured over the last sixty-six years.
The Ombudsman Association for Palestine (OAP) offers a modest contribution toward achieving that aim by taking the debate of the Palestine question back to basics. In a pamphlet entitled Palestine or Israel that I published when I was an undergraduate in 1971, I ended the forward with the sentence “Justice is indivisible, and what is justice for the Jews must also be justice for the Palestinians”. This is still my guiding principle in defending the rights of the Palestinian people and will be the basis of OAP’s modus operandi.