The Palestinian Exodus

Gaza-teargas-ap-img(Mohammed Talatene / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images)

For Jews, the Exodus is one of the key events that shaped Jewish narrative, history, and identity. It is a foundational story of the Jewish people. Not only for Jews, but for many of us, followers of the Christian faith, it is a key story in our faith – at par with the importance of the story of Creation and Noah’s Ark from the Old Testament.

According to the Bible, life for slaves under the Egyptian occupation was a brutal one. Exodus 15:13 states that the slaves were to be strangers in a land that was not theirs, and they would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. There is debate on how many years they were enslaved in Egypt, and even if the lowest number is true, then two hundred years of living under a brutal and violent system of oppression would still be unbearable. Some might have normalized their lives to slavery, and others might have aligned themselves with Pharaoh and the powerful to gain favor. However, many died from brutal treatment or starvation. Some were sold or imprisoned for life. In the face of brutal depravity, Moses tried to negotiate with Pharaoh, but, when negotiations did not work, violence to achieve freedom became the option. Maybe none of us ever questioned Moses (or God) choosing a nonviolent path; though, Pharaoh’s response may have been the same.

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When Illusions become Traps

On September 29, 2012, the Palestinian leadership went to the United Nations and overwhelmingly received a “non-member observing state status” in the General Assembly. I was sitting with friends who were glued to TV screens watching intensely, even with tears of joy rolling down their eyes as the green lights flicked on in the General Assembly floor with one state after the other saying “yes” to state #194. It was as if my friends were watching the lottery numbers for the biggest jackpot in history being announced and they were holding on to the winning ticket.

Image: UN-PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL-DIPLOMACY

My arguments as to why I thought this was not the best of ideas and how the energy of the Palestinians and its leadership should be utilized for something more focused on ending the occupation and oppression fell on deaf ears. I heard things like “You don’t understand the significance of this;” “this is a new phase of the struggle,” “now we can do things we never were able to do in the past” (in reference to legal claims at the International Court of Justice), and of course the most common “This is a great symbolic victory!!!” Yes, symbolically winning the lottery is a great thing indeed…

Nothing of any significance happened this past year to change the reality of the Israeli military occupation and Israeli government policy of building more settlements and restricting more the lives of Palestinians. The change that has taken place has been within the Palestinian community, and I feel it is more dangerous to the Palestinians than the occupation itself.

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