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Tibi’s revisionist strategy: Palestinians as ‘masters of the land’

If Arab List MKs want to advance Palestinian national aspirations, despite their voters' wishes, they should do so outside the Knesset

Admittedly, there is nothing new in the statements and demands of the leaders of the United Arab List MKs Aiman Ouda and Dr. Ahmad Tibi as presented at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence. There is nothing new either in the provocative declaration that they, the Palestinians, are “the masters of the land,” as Tibi chose to declare to President Rivlin in Arabic and Hebrew, or in the demands they made, the most important being the cancelation of the recently passed Nation-State Law – which enshrines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; that permission be given for “family unification” (a code word for free passage into Israel and citizenship for residents of the Palestinian Authority); and repeal of the Kamenitz Law, passed by the Knesset in 2017, which shores up the state’s ability to effectively address illegal construction and enforce its Building and Planning Code.

The fundamental elements of the Palestinian national strategy were made public about three months after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in the context of a series of three “Vision Documents.” Dr. As’ad Ghanem, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Haifa, among those who drafted the documents, explained why they were written:

“At the time of the concluding actions of the al-Quds and al-Aqsa intifada, the need was born to formulate a collective program that would put the content of the struggle and its implications into a positive framework, rather than just a debate aimed only at closing gaps…”

The documents are based on similar fundamental assumptions. It is very important to get to know and understand them:

From The Democratic Constitution – Adalah

“The Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel have lived in their homeland for innumerable generations. Here they were born, here their historic roots have grown, and here their national and cultural life has developed and flourished. They are active contributors to human history and culture as part of the Arab nation and the Islamic culture and as an inseparable part of the Palestinian people.”

“The State of Israel must recognize its responsibility for past injustices suffered by the Palestinian people, both before and after its establishment. The State of Israel must recognize, therefore, its responsibility for the injustices of the Nakba and the Occupation; recognize the right of return of the Palestinian refugees based on UN Resolution 194; recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and withdraw from all of the territories occupied in 1967.“

From The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel:

“The war of 1948 resulted in the establishment of the Israeli state on 78% of historical Palestine. We found ourselves, those who have remained in their homeland (approximately 160,000) within the borders of the Jewish state. Such reality has isolated us from the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab world and we were forced to become citizens of Israel. This has transformed us into a minority living in our historic homeland.”

“Defining the Israeli State as a Jewish State and exploiting democracy in the service of its Jewishness excludes us, and creates tension between us and the nature and essence of the State.”

“Israel is the outcome of a colonial process initiated by the Zionist–Jewish elite in Europe and the west…”

“The Palestinian Arabs in Israel are the indigenous people of the country and thus have historic and material relations with their homeland emotionally, nationally, religiously and culturally.”

From The Haifa Declaration

“We believe that exploiting this tragedy [the Holocaust] and its consequences in order to legitimize the right of the Jews to establish a state at the expense of the Palestinian people serves to belittle universal, human and moral lessons to be learned from this catastrophic event, which concerns the whole of humanity.”

* * *

So what do we find in these documents?

Zero taking of responsibility for launching hostilities immediately after the November 29, 1947 UN partition resolution, and before that for the bloody riots of 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936-1939. This is further to the bizarre inability to recall the pro-Nazi founder and leader of the Palestinian National Movement, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini and his catastrophic decisions.

Total denial of the Jewish people’s historical connection to its land.

An attempt to rewrite the short history of the Palestinians and misrepresent it as having existed since the days of the Inca.

And in this regard, note the remarks by Prof. Mustafa Kabha, head of the history departments of the Open University and Ben-Gurion University. He writes in his book “The Palestinians, A People Dispersed”:

“Most historians dealing with the history of the Palestinian people begin their analysis with two major events in the history of the conflict: the start of Jewish-Zionist emigration from Europe in 1882, or the Balfour Declaration… in 1917. This choice is based on the premise that the unique Palestinian national consciousness emerged in response to the start of the Zionist enterprise. Other historians have chosen earlier starting points…. These scholars move back the growth of the modern Palestinian identity to the growth of the pan-regional modern Arab identity, and it is difficult to accept their view. No evidence has yet been found of an orderly or even implicit Palestinian national doctrine from those times.”

Moral delegitimization of the establishment of the State of Israel and its representation as a colonialist act, morally justified by the events of the Holocaust.

And most importantly, the demand to abolish the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, i.e. denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

* * *

Do the documents represent the entire Arab public in Israel? I am happy to say that the answer to that question is no. Do they represent the majority of the Arab population’s political and intellectual leadership? Sadly, they do!

Now that the carefully articulated Palestinian national strategy before us is clear, we must decide where we stand in relation to it: Will we allow Zionism to wither away and die out, or will we continue to adhere to Israel’s Proclamation of Independence, the essence of the Zionist doctrine, which asserts that “it is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State”?

My answer is that we will never agree to concede the identity of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, that it is not the Holocaust that underlies the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, but the perseverance of the Jewish people for thousands of years in adhering to its vision of the return to Zion, and to realize it through tremendous efforts, as stated in Israel’s Proclamation of Independence: “Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades, they returned in their masses. Pioneers, defiant returnees and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community.”

From an international perspective, let us not forget that the right to a Jewish state was granted by the League of Nations not in wake of the Holocaust, but 28 years earlier:

“This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home. “

If you consider yourselves members of the Palestinian people, that’s fine, but you are invited to advance your national political aspirations within the context of the Palestinian Authority, not in Israel’s Knesset, where you are welcome and one might say obliged to advance the issues of Arab society in Israel in all its civic aspects.

About the Author
Amichai Shikli is CEO and Founder of the Tavor Leadership Academy. He has an MA in diplomacy and security studies from Tel Aviv University, and a BA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Haifa. Hed served as a company commander of the Egoz Special Forces Unit. Amichai lives at Kibbutz Hanaton with his wife and three childrens.