THE Palestinians are being blamed for the recent upheaval in the Middle East. Again!
The process of demonizing the Palestinians that started in the late 1960s when they demanded a homeland continues even today. Ask any West Bank right-wing Jewish settler about his view of the Palestinians and he is liable to paint a picture of untrustworthy and uncivilized barbaric savages.
They hold the same opinion about their fellow Arab citizens of Israel. One would think that half a century of living together would have changed the inter-personal dynamics between these two peoples. It has not. Fifty years after the creation of Israel, its Arab population is treated as second class and remains suspect. Arabs themselves have to share part of the blame for the plight of Palestinians living in the occupied territories and those who have lived in refugee camps for three generations.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the gulf states have long ago sold out to the United States. Others are either dependent on U.S. handouts or they are too isolated to make any difference.
In a blatant display of its pro-Israeli bias, the United States has voiced its opposition to the convening of a meeting of the leaders of the Arab League in Egypt next week. Even if such a meeting does materialize, it will be, as in the past, long on rhetoric and lofty promises but miserably short on any meaningful action.
The Jews and the Palestinians have a lot in common. They both have a long and unforgettable memory of their suffering. The Jews demanded and were given a country of their own. They were able to enforce the right of return of any Jew to Israel.
They received apologies for crimes committed against them and were compensated for their losses at the hands of occupiers. And they regained control over their holy places. Palestinians are asking for much less. To the credit of Israeli society, there are Jews who are sensitive to the plight of Palestinians and openly support them.
These disparate groups - Gush Shalom, Committee Against House Demolitions, Women For Political Prisoners, Meretz Youths, Bat Shalom Women, and Hadash - have been in the forefront of a nascent peace movement. Their courageous stands however go unnoticed and unreported. Jerusalem, the epicenter of recent upheaval, has gone through such convulsions before.
Now, whatever rudimentary bridges existed between these two peoples have been effectively burnt by Ariel Sharon with his arrogant and provocative visit to Muslim holy sites in Arab East Jerusalem. Sometimes it takes an awful long time to build new bridges.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.