As the siren sounded this morning across Israeli communities, another siren rang somberly inside the hearts of Palestinians. Israelis are commemorating Memorial Day, honoring their fallen soldiers in Israelís wars. This week will also mark its Independence Day, when the map of historical Palestine was redrawn and renamed as Israel.
Palestinian woes started far earlier than 1948 however. One lone Brit changed the history of Palestinians forever, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour. For the Jews, he was a savior, for the Palestinians, the man who decided their horrible fate. Thanks to a November 2, 1917 memo in which the British declared their support for the establishment of ďa national home for the Jewish peopleĒ, Israel was given the international backing it needed to conquer Palestine.
Today, Israelis celebrate that conquest, praising their soldiers for the wars they fought in. For Palestinians, this is also a time of remembrance Ė of the loss of Palestine and of the ongoing battles they face every day in their quest for freedom and independence.
What would have happened if Mr. Balfour had not made that declaration? The course of history would definitely have been changed. It is difficult to say if the Palestinians would have been spared the agonies and displacement that came with Al Nakba in 1948, but it is fair to say that the Balfour Declaration marked a turning point in Israelís self-proclaimed sense of ownership to this land.
Today, the Palestinians are still suffering the consequences. Kicked out of their land in 1948 and 1967 not to mention the steady dispossession of Palestinians till today, they continue to fight the premise that Israel is the sole and rightful owner to Palestine. This is an insane notion, given that there were indigenous people living on the land for thousands of years, but one the Palestinians find themselves defending nonetheless time and again.
Of course, Arthur James Balfour cannot be the only one to blame for the Palestiniansí plight. Several factors came into play that ultimately resulted in the loss of most of Palestine and the ongoing occupation of the remainder. Balfour aside, the number one culprit in maintaining the undesirable Palestinian status quo is the United States. It did not have to ďpromiseĒ the Jews a homeland in Palestine because it has done everything in its power to uphold this promise day in and day out since Israel was established.
So, Israel has much to celebrate. It was promised a land and it was handed to it on a silver platter. But one manís loss is another manís gain and what Palestinians lost, Israel claimed as its own. Now, it is time for the Palestinians to be given the same promise. Palestine was never a land without a people and the Palestinians were never a people without a land. Its ancestors and olive trees stand testimony to this.
The leadership is willing to share, but with sharing comes justice. Palestinians will create their state on 22% of historical Palestine, but the edges cannot be shaved off or pared down to any less. And those who lost or were driven from their homes in 1948 and 1967 will always have the right to return, regardless of how that pans out on the ground. Our fallen soldiers are as precious as any other and whatís more, they continue to fall. On this Israeli Memorial and Independence Day, let the world know that Israelís joy came on the backs of our Nakba. Israel cannot be proud of itself when it knows it built its country on the ruins of someone elseís.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.