Americans — most Americans — are very confused about the map of Israel and Palestine. Unsurprising, but it exposes our ignorance of the historical development of the region. Israel might be the only nation on the planet without defined borders, although Israeli leaders pretend otherwise.
More often than not, when I mention that I traveled to Palestine, I’m greeted with a quizzical look. “Where? Oh, you mean Israel!”
No. Actually, I haven’t been in Israel since 2004, and with my activism on behalf of Palestinians, I probably won’t be allowed into Israel any time soon.
So here’s my short elevator speech that I’ve perfected over the past six months since returning from Palestine to inform my uninformed friends and Americans about the Palestine-Israel map.
“I returned from Palestine.” Where? Oh, you mean Israel?
“Palestine is next to and separate from Israel. Actually, Israel was created in 1948 from Palestinian land.”
Where are the borders of Palestine?
“THAT is the million dollar question. Neither Israel nor Palestine have clear borders today. Israel is the only nation in the world that hasn’t defined its borders. Palestinians want a state of their own but the borders of a new state of Palestine haven’t been established yet.”
Oh, that’s because the Palestinians are always fighting and want to destroy Israel.
“Um, there’s fighting and violence in the Middle East but it’s about the occupation.”
“Yes, the occupation. The violence began in 1948, when the Zionists created their new state of Israel by forcing thousands of Palestinians to leave their homes and villages. The Zionists killed many Palestinians and destroyed nearly 500 villages so they would not return.”
Where did these Palestinians go in 1948?
“They became refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere. They remain refugees today, and their children and grandchildren are also refugees.”
So why are the Palestinians fighting today? History is history, they should just get on with their lives.
“Again, it’s the occupation. Israel occupied (controlled) the remaining Palestinian land in 1967. Israel continues to forcibly occupy Palestinian land and treat Palestinians very badly.” [I could give many examples about this point but not in my elevator speech.] “So the violence you hear about in Palestine-Israel is very simple —- Israel (the occupier) trying to suppress the Palestinians, and the Palestinians (the occupied) seeking justice which is long overdue.”
But the Palestinians start the fighting, right? They’re the aggressors. They want to destroy Israel and reclaim all of the land.
[If I’ve kept my companion engaged to this point, I know it’s time for more than my elevator speech. That’s when we can really start to have a discussion. Unfortunately, most Americans I’ve met don’t want to go there. Hopefully, my elevator speech has pricked some minds with a new word – OCCUPATION!]