Monday, June 4, 2012

Palestinian Cultural day Interruptus

On Sunday we mentioned that Alameda County was planning on issuing a proclamation declaring June 5 "Palestinian Cultural day". If the pronouncement hadn't negated Jewish peoplehood, and denied our 3500 year connection to Eretz Yisrael, it would have been fine. I love the diversity and multiculturalism of the Bay area. I love the variety of foods, the world music, and the folk dances of the wildly diverse groups that make up the Bay area. I like Palestinian embroidery as much as the next person, and would love to see this declaration re-written- this time in real celebration of Palestinian culture, not as a cheap attempt to count coup and score political points against the Jewish people who live in the region.

Apparently others felt the same way. This proclamation was publicized on other blogs, and people wrote in. Some of the emails found their way to us.

Some were highly academic and long, long, long:

From RM:

"This letter is in regards to the resolution regarding “Palestinian Cultural Day.” In brief, the resolution as proposed is historically inaccurate and distorts the actual facts underlying the modern Arab-Israeli Conflict. The actual ancestors of today’s self-identified Palestinians represent the diversity of the defunct Ottoman Empire, and were mostly immigrants in relatively recent historic times.

In 1917, the British took the area to day known as “Israel” ,”the West Bank” and “Jordan” from the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire. Under Ottoman mis-administration, the area had become significantly impoverished, over grazed and then de-populated. In 1738, the land was described by the English archaeologist Thomas Shaw as "lacking in people to till its fertile soil" (Travels and Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant). The French historian Conte Constantine Francois Volney writes: "The peasants are incessantly making inroads on each other's lands, destroying their corn, durra, sesame and olive-trees, and carrying off their sheep, goats and camels. The Turks, who are everywhere negligent in repressing similar disorders, are attentive to them here, since their authority is very precarious. The Bedouin, whose camps occupy the level country, are continually at open hostilities with them, of which the peasants avail themselves to resist their authority or do mischief to each other, according to the blind caprice of their ignorance or the interest of the moment. Hence arises an anarchy which is still more dreadful than the despotism that prevails elsewhere, while the mutual the contending parties renders the appearance of devastation of this part of Syria more wretched than that of any other." (Travels Through Syria and Egypt in the Years 1783, 1784, and 1785). H. B. Tristam writes in in the 1965, “The Land of Israel, a Journal of Travels in Palestine”, "A few years ago, the whole Ghor (Jordan Valley) was in the hands of the fellahin and much of it cultivated for corn. Now the whole of it is in the hands of the Bedouin, who eschew all agriculture except in a few spots cultivated here and there by their slaves; and with the Bedouin come lawlessness and the uprooting of all Turkish authority. No government is now acknowledged on the east side; and unless the Porte acts with greater firmness and caution than is his wont... Palestine will be desolated and given up to the nomads." Similarly, Alexander Keith, recalling Volney's 1785 description (quoted above) fifty years later, commented: "In his day [Volney's] the land had not fully reached its last degree of desolation and depopulation." (The Land of Israel). Mark Twain, in ”Innocents Abroad” makes significant comment on the lack of populations

The de-population was of such a magnitude that the Ottoman Empire transferred Moslems from other parts of their empire and else where. Most Palestinian Arabs are descendants of Muslim migrants from the Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, as well as from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Bosnia, the Caucasus, Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, India, Afghanistan and Balochistan mostly from 1845 through1917. For example, Caesarea was re-founded by a colony of Moslem fishermen from Bosnia n 1882, and with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, about 1 million Muslims, some speaking Turkish, others not, moved east to remain in the diminished empire. Many of those who settled in Turkey assimilated, but some village communities persist in retaining a distinct identity.

Circassians arrived at their present location from Balkans in year 1880 after 10 years of residence at Marvel-border of Greece and Bulgaria, they migrated to Palestine, the Holy Land of the three monotheist religions. Ottoman Sultan asked them to reside at Rihania (Reyhaniye) and Kfar-Kama villages.

Historian Gad Gilbar's observation on Ruth Kark's contribution to his edited volume Ottoman Palestine, 1800-1914, touches on the issue of Arab immigration into and within Palestine. He relates her ideas in "The Rise and Decline of Coastal Towns in Palestine" to Charles Issawi's thesis concerning the role of minority groups and foreigners in the development of Middle Eastern towns. Explaining why no other Palestinian cities grew as rapidly as Jaffa and Haifa did during the final three decades of the Ottoman rule, Gilbar writes: "Both attracted population from the rural and urban surroundings and immigrants from outside Palestine." The diversity of Moslem immigrants to pre-state Israel was such that the to the extent that 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica notes,” The inhabitants of Palestine are composed of a large number of elements, differing widely in ethnological affinities, language and religion. It may be interesting to mention, as an illustration of their heterogeneousness, that early in the 20th century a list of no less than fifty languages, spoken in Jerusalem as vernaculars, was there drawn up by a party of men whose various official positions enabled them to possess accurate information on the subject. It is therefore no easy task to write concisely and at the same time with sufficient fullness on the ethnology of Palestine."

After the advent of modern political Zionism (which is shorthand for “the assertion of the Jewish right to national self -determination in their ancestral land”), the resulting economic boom, drew many more Arab workers, heightened by the 1914 drought in Syria. William Ziff’s 1938 book,"The Rape of Palestine" states, "We should expect to find an exodus of Arabs from lands where Jews are settled. But exactly the opposite is true: it is precisely in the vicinity of those Jewish villages that Arab development is most marked. Arab Haifa, profiting from the Jewish boom grew from 1922 to 1936 by 130%, Jaffa by 80% and Jerusalem by 55%...In the vicinity of the Jewish villages Arab workers earn twice the wage paid in other parts of Palestine. Once the poorest , sorriest population in this whole section of poverty stricken masses, the Arabs of Palestine are now the richest per capita of their race."

Thereafter , the British, during the”British Mandate of Palestine” period from 1917-1948, imported Arab laborers from Syria etc. to- work on infrastructure projects and in the Port of Haifa. This massive Arab immigration was acknowledged, in a way, by UNRWA in 1948, when “Palestinian refugee” status was granted if “one’s ordinary place of residence from 1946-48 “ had been in pre-state Israel. Simply, the resolution articulates a highly politicized myth, that being that “ Palestinians trace their roots back to the historic land of Palestine” or that there has been such an identity as “Palestinians” for 2,00 years.” Both are simply false and distortions of history. Perhaps the resolution should be re-considered in light of the nature of the divisive nature of the political implications of the resolution, as well as the distorted history contained therein."

Some emails were short and to the point. But in the end, the grassroots initiative made a difference, to all but Wilma Chan. The supervisors did not anticipate that their routine administrative declaration would have political ramifications, and called it off.

And as we know, hell has no fury like an anti-Zionist scorned.

The following email was sent:

"We would like to update you on the status of Palestinian Proclamation Day in Alameda County, scheduled for tomorrow June 5th, 2012. We have been informed as of late this Monday morning that the issuing of the proclamation was pulled from the Board of Supervisors’ agenda by President Nate Miley.Supervisors were heavily lobbied by the racist rhetoric that is perpetuated through internet blogging, and specifically politicized the event on the following link: Please be advised that this proclamation was and remains a statement to promote Palestinian culture and heritage. We plan to be there to share concerns during public input time. Barbara Lee and Pete Stark’s office have issued a certificate of special congressional recognition and Supervisor Wilma Chan is issuing a commendation for Palestinian cultural day"

Apparently in the "activist to English" dictionary: "heavily lobbied by the racist rhetoric that is perpetuated through internet blogging" can be roughly translated as "grassroots letter writing campaign".

Do you care about tolerance and diversity? Show at at 10:45 am in the Alameda County Administration Building, 1221 Oak Street, Oakland. Lets let the Alameda county Supervisors know that they can celebrate Palestinian culture without denying the heritage of others in the land.

1 comment:

Gary Fouse said...

Barbara Lee and Pete Stark are two of the biggest jerks in Congress.