If you want to understand events in Israel and Palestine among these two peoples who are locked in a century-long battle, you have to understand the importance of generations. Ancient Israelites understood their generational struggles against their enemies, especially Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites. So do Palestinians today against Zionism and Israel, but Israelis refuse to see themselves and their history in the eyes of young Palestinians who also battle for their existence and dignity.
In the Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 23:3 notes God’s command that: “An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation shall none of them enter into the assembly of the LORD for ever.”
Wow, ten generations…even, forever! Talk of holding a grudge. But that’s how national confrontational politics and God’s commands operated. Pain endures in the human spirit, and the pain of national affront endures a long time. The Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Amalekites who lived south and east of ancient Palestine—the Promised Land in the Hebrew Bible—mistreated, cursed, attacked and refused safe passage to the Israelites who trekked to Palestine. So for ten generations and forever, they were barred from entering into the Israelite community. There is no forgiving in this serious business of nationhood.
Well, this same generational factor is at play similarly among Palestinians today. It might well go on until the tenth generation. The Israelis will decide this, because the Palestinians also take their generations seriously, and are not going anywhere.
The young boys in Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine who regularly are killed, injured, colonized, and jailed by Israelis, and routinely fight back, these are our fifth Palestinian generation in the struggle against Zionism. Israelis should be very worried that during the past five generations, three critical things have occurred that augur badly for Israel and Zionism. Palestinians have become more proficient at technical aspects of the struggle, including military dimensions at times; every generation has absorbed and strengthened its Palestinian national and personal identity, naturally and organically, by osmosis from its parents, just as Jews have done for millennia; and, people all over the world increasingly appreciate the justice of the Palestinian case and the criminal and cruel behavior of most Israelis. Five generations, count them:
The first Palestinian generation around 1900-1920, of my grandparents’ era, was the one that passively saw the duplicitous British colonial powers make conflicting promises to Arabs and Zionists about the future status of the land after the end of World War One.
The second Palestinian generation around 1920-1947 woke up to the threat of large-scale Jewish immigration in Palestine that aimed to create a Jewish state, or a Jewish “national home” as it was called then. Those Palestinians, of my parents’ generation, tried but failed to resist both the colonial controls of the British and the state-building plans of the Zionists.
The third Palestinian generation around 1948-1970, my birth generation, was stunned by the loss of Palestine and their own refugeehood and exile, or their occupation by the new state of Israel; they could only depend on Arab states’ support in the struggle for their Palestinian land and rights, which failed and reached a nadir in the losses of the 1967 June War.
The fourth Palestinian generation around 1968-2000, the generation of my children, started to mobilize through any means possible and fight back with small-scale guerrilla actions and organized political action through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the two intifadas of 1987 and 2000 marked serious popular resistance against Israel and Zionism, using non-violent and violent means, as well as the 1993 Oslo Accords’ failed attempt to achieve our national rights through diplomacy that would lead to statehood and an end of the Israeli occupation.
The fifth Palestinian generation since 2000 is on the streets of Palestine today, fighting and killing and doing anything it can to end this conflict and achieve its national liberty. This generation, including my baby granddaughter, was born or came to maturity during the Oslo years, which produced neither statehood nor an end to Zionist occupation and colonization.
So, since the birth of modern Zionism in the mid-1890s, five Palestinian generations have tried but failed to resist Zionist plans and the military brutality of the Israeli state. Every Palestinian family today among some nine million Palestinians can go through this timeline and remember its own history. Why do these successive generations not forget, and just roll over and surrender, or emigrate to distant lands? What is it about exiled people that makes them battle to the death, even unto the tenth generation?
Maybe it has something to do with Psalm 137:5? “How can we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth If I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. …”
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in the Daily Star. He was founding director and now senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. On Twitter: @ramikhouri.
Copyright ©2015 Rami G. Khouri — distributed by Agence Global