Oh Palestine

By Raffique Shah
November 28, 2023

Raffique ShahCloistered as we are in our tiny space in the wide world, Trinidad and Tobago often resorts to grandiose statements to appear to be playing critical roles in global affairs. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, except you can delude yourself into believing your inflated ego and end up being the butt of many a barb in social circuits you have breached by false pretences.

I am not suggesting here the Dr Keith Rowley administration is guilty of dereliction of duty in international affairs, that it has missed out on important interventions that might have brought us more than goodwill. Au contraire, I believe Dr Rowley has grasped opportunities as they arose, and created others where none seemed to exist.

However, as a nation, we seemed to have lost our voices and our propensity to put pen to paper, or more au courant, fingers to keyboards, when the savages of Israel embarked on a genocidal mission to drive millions of Palestinians into extinction by whatever means were available to them.

Maybe because the Zionists seem to have the support of all the powerful nations in the world, with the US leading the “sanctions” gang that will brutalise countries that dare disagree with them. These people can get very personal. They deny you visas to enter their countries for merely referring to them as murderers—which they are. Witness the thousands of Palestinians, thousands of them children, who have been slaughtered in the current war.

I want to focus on the Israelis’ objection to being branded terrorists while they use that word to describe Hamas, Hezbollah and scores of other such organisations that support the recognition of the Palestinian state on lands adjacent to Israel, Lebanon and other Arab states in that region.

I also make it clear that I now support the two-state solution mainly because Israel has forced this onto us by carving and expanding, as they see fit, the Israel we know today. Just for peace sake, I accept the creation of a separate Palestine on lands that already are under their control, or lands they may justifiably claim.

These things said, the people of Trinidad and Tobago must be seized of all the facts surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948. In history, those approximately 80 years are but a moment in time that could be heavenly for those who carve their own spaces; define their heaven. But it could be sheer hell for others who have no space to claim as theirs, no country to call their own.

There is Israel as we know it, which has expanded several times since its founders created it. There is no Palestine. We hear of Palestinians. We see them, mainly poor people, children suffering- not having a childhood, forced to watch as their parents and loved ones are murdered, provided they themselves survive or are not locked away in a prison at a tender age. No schooling. If they educate themselves it’s because they have claimed some space, somewhere, they call schools.

Israel, in stark contrast, is Palestine’s polar opposite. They have boomed and bloomed, thanks to billions of dollars given to them by the rich countries that are largely Christian by religion and which feel obligated to this ancestral, Biblical homeland of “The Chosen Ones”.

Now, I am not trying to stir up trouble where there isn’t. Israel carved out its space in violence and it will keep its space through violence. In the 1940s when the Israelis began enforcing their claim for a homeland, their leaders made violence part of their menu.

From Menachem Begin to Moshe Dayan and every cabinet since has been led by the terrorists. They belonged to Irgun, Haganah and several such extremist organisations whose claim to fame was how many European servicemen and public officers they had slaughtered.

In July 1946—I was merely three months old—Irgun members bombed the King David hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 150 British officials. Assassinations were routine, mostly targeting Europeans and Arabs.

To save themselves from humiliation and more losses, the international agencies charged with arriving at an amicable solution to claims by Israel and Palestine gave the Zionists land that was already occupied by the Palestinians, displacing the same Palestinians and forcing them to scramble for the little that was left.

That is why from then to now there has been constant conflict, dozens of wars, and thousands of assassinations or sheer murdering.

Maybe, too, because I was born in the heat of this conflict—March 7, 1946—I have always taken a position dictated by my hero Che Guevara: “…Above all, always feel deeply the injustices meted out to people anywhere on earth… that is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary…”