Palestinians, Israelis Are in Dual Quest for Acceptance, Legitimacy
Byline: Jamil Khoury
Jamil Khoury is an instructor of Middle East Studies at the University of Chicago Graham School of General Studies.
The political lexicon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is forever evoking the specter of legitimacy - legitimate rights, legitimate claims, legitimate fears, legitimate borders.
Yet beyond the language of diplomacy, it is a conflict that inspires little reciprocity in embracing legitimacies. While Israelis and Palestinians may be resigned to the fact of each other's existence, many have yet to reconcile with the legitimacy of each other's existence. This largely intellectual process would further the cause for peace, but it remains highly unlikely amid escalating bloodshed and occupation. As the personal is political, it was, at a young age, my Arab background that nurtured a strong political consciousness around the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I have never questioned the legitimacy and integrity of the Palestinian narrative, and the deep historical bonds between the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim, and the land of Palestine. The love and devotion Palestinians exhibit toward their homeland is testimony enough to their belonging there. I am also no stranger to the suffering and injustice Palestinians continue to endure, at the hands of Israel, the Arab regimes and their own leadership. Having lived in the Arab world, and having worked for the United Nations in Palestinian refugee camps, I have indeed witnessed some of that suffering.
But whereas Palestine was cloaked in legitimacy for me, Israel was not. To many Arabs and Arab-Americans, a Jewish state in the Middle East is a European colonial outpost. It is inorganic, alien to the region, ideologically (if not religiously) kin to the earlier Crusades. And although Jews have lived in the Middle East for millenniums, Israelis, by and large, are viewed as strangers, foreign invaders, usurpers of land - perspectives not without compelling arguments.
It was, however, my experience living in Israel/Palestine, defined by my work with the United Nations and the first intifada, that afforded me opportunities to engage Israel through a Jewish lens. It was then that I began to sit with the Zionist narrative, to wrestle with its history and grapple with its claims, and I arrived at a few unexpected conclusions.
I came to recognize a powerful Jewish attachment to the land of Israel, an attachment rooted in Jewish history and spirituality. …