Will Israelis call West Bank ‘home’ someday?

Published: December 21, 2010

Will Israeli settlers in the West Bank eventually become natives? PHOTO: UPI

I was enjoying a great day in the sun in New Zealand, far away from the guns and dead of Karachi, reading an article by Robert Fisk about his memories in Lebanon on the Independent’s website.

While I rolled a cigarette for myself, a 12-year-old Maori (New Zealand native) kid asked if he could have one too. I told him to bugger off, and he skated away angrily, mumbling racial slurs.

This seemingly trivial moment made my heart sink, the way it does when I hear very bad news, but it wasn’t because of the racial slurs or the poor condition of the Maori boy. The incident made me remember something I was reading in Fisk’s article and I quickly went back to it and read it again. Fisk  says:

One day – speak it not in Lebanon, of course – these Palestinians or their children may also become Lebanese. That, of course, will be the day that the Americans and Israelis finally obliterate the Palestinians’ UN-mandated “right of return”, when Lebanon will have to be paid billions to give them passports – the Lebanese, I fear, might accept – and when Lebanon will become (because the Palestinians are mostly Sunnis, with only a sprinkling of Christians who have their own camp in east Beirut) an undeniably Muslim country.

I understand that he is trying to make a different point there but the Maori kid and the above lines triggered a peculiar line of thought in my head. It is important to remember that the Maori were in New Zealand a long time before the European settlers came.

Settlers become natives

These settlers started to colonise the land, which was not acceptable to the native Maoris. Now one can see that these natives are a small part of the population. This land has become a home of the settlers after so many years. Generations of settlers have grown old and died here so now it’s the settler’s, (Pakeha) country. At this stage, to tell a settler Kiwi to move from a house claiming it to be Maori land 300-400 years back would be barbaric and cruel because the settler has lived there for hundreds of years. His father, grandfather, great grandfather all owned the same place. The settler has now become a native and the world recognises this.

Similarly in Australia the natives are the Aborigines, the indigenous people of Australia. Once again, the settler has become a native. The same is the case in North America. The real American is called the Native American and the settler is the real American now. In all three cases, the natives -the Maori, the aborigine and the Native American- have accept the change. Time has made a foreign land home to a settler. For instance, a UN Resolution asking Australian settlers to leave the continent because it was colonised and taken from the native people will be thrown in a bin.

The settlers no one accepts

The Israeli settlements in West Bank are increasing by the day. The world recognises the occupation as illegal but cannot do anything about it. So they continue to increase. Let’s say 300 years pass by; the settlements have doubled or tripled as compared to the present and the owner of a settlement house is a third or fourth generation settler. He can now say that they have lived there for hundreds of years. He can call it his grandfather’s house. It would be cruel to kick him out.  My questions are:

  • Will the passage of time make a settler in an occupied land a native in the case of West Bank too?
  • Will the refugees who have settled in Lebanon and Jordan become Lebanese and Jordanian natives? If so, who will go back?
  • In 300 years will the native people of the occupied West Bank become like the “Maori” or the Aborigine of Israel?

The Muslim world is fighting

I don’t think the occupation in the West Bank is related to the settlers being Jewish – rather it is based on human emotion. As the Jewish community has suffered for so many years, it is understandable that they would be territorial about the land they have now come to own, as well as the land they have acquired by occupation. Muslims and Christians would do the same. It is part of human nature.

Greed, power, ego, honour, and jealousy are all human emotions. We are all affected by these, especially in the Muslim world. What I fear is that we will resort to violence. The cycle of hate will continue while our pious leaders sit on their thrones and the poor become more destitute.

Suddenly, 300 years later we will wake upto realize that the settler has now become the native in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ahmed Aziz

Ahmed Aziz

A PhD candidate at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He is interested in the Middle East.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali Haider

    A very well written article explaning how Israelis settlements are increasing on the West Bank Which is a landlocked territory and is the eastern part of the Palestinian territories and by increasing settlements will they ever will be able to become natives.
    After reading this article I think in 300 years or so they probably will be able to call themselfs as natives as eventually the native people will accept them as their own people.Recommend

  • ingemar

    A excellent piece, love the comparisons used in reference to the West Bank in particular blending in your current place of residence in New Zealand, Very well explained and raises many good points. One can only hope that one day that the West Bank can find peace like so many other places have before.
    Well doneRecommend

  • sabril

    I would guess the Jewish settlers already feel that they are natives. Not without justification either. Even putting aside the Bible, there is plenty of archaeological and genetic evidence that Jews are as indigenous to the area as Maori are to New Zealand.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    I just started reading your article,just when the first line of the article hit me, saying “I was enjoying a great day in the sun in New Zealand, far away from the guns and dead of Karachi”
    It means you are shame of you country.you dont have courage to be here with your love ones.Sorry, to say but you should be shameful in enjoying days there,rather then supporting you country in its critical situation.May be your article is good,I didnt read it,but you are not a true Pakistani.Recommend

  • Waleed Ahmad

    Excellent article Ahmad …..@Pakistani ….Atleast he has the courage of writing what we all need to propogate ….Have a look at his profile …a PhD candidate in New Zealand …he could well forget about Muslims and our country but atleast he`s contributing his part ….instead of labelling someone, we all need to ask ourselves “what have we done for Pakistan or the Muslims?”

    Keep up the good work and let us all know whenever you come up with a new article ….Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    AN often overlooked international conflict, and rightly pointed out by the writer, making a colonial connection, Israel/occupied Palestine is nothing more than a colonial project of Europeab societies former outcasts, religion is just used as an excuse by Israelis to justify their land grab activities.Recommend

  • Azfar

    nicely written with a much broader and deeper perspective ,

    @ Pakistani
    learn to acknowledge things, true writers and intellectuals have no nationality , they right from where ever they want for whoever they want . Even if its against Blasphemy law getting used to set personal scores or its writer like Arundhati Roy , who right in favor of Kashmir’s .. Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    Very nice post on an important topic.
    There is one more dimension to this story, the new settlers claim that, it was there land, they were based here some 2,000 years ago and were forced to leave, so now they claim that land.
    Not saying that I completely agree with them.Recommend

  • Ahmed Aziz

    @Pakistani: Mr Pakistani, I appreciate your concern. I am here for a PhD. I hope you understand the significance of a PhD. Pakistan is my blood so I will write as much about it as I want whatever you say. This article is not about Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmed Aziz

    @Ali Hassan: Excellent point. We should be thinking this way. I commend you for an open mind. We should all be able to spot these claims and sensitivities so that we can act objectively to solve the problem rather then just blaming the west.Recommend

  • Humanity

    It is a fact that the Jews inhabited the land 2000 years ago and were driven out by the various invaders. The land was occupied by the Philistines, before the Jews came to settle there.

    It is also a fact that the native Americans inhabited the American continents 10,000 years ago. They were systematically eradicated through genocide when the white invaders arrived some 400 to 600 hundred years ago. The same story of migration can be repeated pretty much for every human being. We are genetically programmed to migrate, mix, and evolve for the preservation and survival of out gene pool :)

    So, why do the Jews have a right of return and ownership of the land? Why don’t surviving native Americans have a similar right? The reason for creation of Israel must also be valid for the native Americans. All non-native-American must be expelled from North and South America. They can go where ever their ancestors lived. The principle to return the land based on ancient citizenship must be applied uniformly. If followed fairly, this principle would drive every one back to the perhaps the Great Rift in Africa. That would be real nice :)

    The point is that migration for various reasons is a continuing part of the human legacy and development. For one group to claim rights to an ancestral land is plain ludicrous and unjust.

    Having said, that okay fine, the Jews are now in what they call Israel. They must, however, recognize a joint right of the Palestinians to that land. After all that sliver of real estate it is their ancestral home land too.

    On the topic of waving the book of God, the Israelis must not forget that they were driven out of the land because of divine design as documented in the Bible and corroborated by history. The divine plan played out and will continue to play out dispensing justice in mysterious ways. The Israelis must not forget that God comes to the aid of the oppressed and waylays the oppressor. Have they forgotten the Nazi concentration camps? How can the Jews, of all the people, subject others to concentration camps like Gaza?

    Israel must withdrawn to the 1967 border and allow the Palestinians to regain their dignity and identity by allowing them a viable homeland. They must not forget the experiences of their forefathers. God does waylay the oppressors when He comes to the aid of the oppressed.

    The Jews are not chosen and neither are the Muslims superior. Each much learn to co-exist peacefully. Only then can Humanity be happy :)Recommend

  • Raqib Ali

    Jews are the ‘natives’ who have come back to claim their land after thousands of years of Settler (Palestinians)’s stay. Settlers had become natives but ‘real’ native is powerful in this case. I think author has not understood the claims of the Jews (I do not agree with Jewish claim because of the same settler logic given by the authro). Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com unseen-eccentric

    ahh the sufferings of the jews…Recommend

  • Syed

    I dont get it ! what was the reason to mention Karachi in the beginning >?? Recommend

  • Ahmed Aziz

    @Syed:
    It was a start of the thought process that lead me to have that particular line of thinking and make inferences and parallels. Recommend

  • Farrukh Mujahid

    The “white man” has expanded his occupation, or locus of control, from a small part of Western Europe to a great part of the entire world. The mask was always trade, and books are full of the gruesome details.

    A couple of centuries later, the problem of ownership was (not solved) clarified when he created a neutral international body that oversees the ownerships being held. From that point the habit of invading and occupying was marked as “boo-boo”, and any nation that tried, was faced by repercussions from an international alliance (the World Wars?). Somehow, certain cases, for seemingly uncertain reasons, have not been able to receive that level of attention from the settler’s international body.

    The objectives appear to be the same, but the tactics of justification have now changed. It’s not trade or voyages of discovery anymore; we all know where the party is at (for oil, gold, diamonds, and many other resources). Terrorism is the new vogue. Plant a terrorist at your next destination, bribe the nation’s leaders (there’s always room for more luxuries, even if you’re king) or threaten to fund a revolt, and voila! It’s legal to invade! [In fact “thank God our friends came to our aid” to rid us of these monstrous terrorists!] Start wiping out the neighborhoods in the quest for some mythical creature. Establish depots to prevent an uprising in the future, and very soon, the natives will be drooling over Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

    The case of the Holy Land is caught up in paperwork it seems; because the last time a nation overrode the international accord, that nation was disciplined, by an international alliance. Apparently, the sacred real estate files have gone missing, or weren’t in order or something even more “complex” for the peasant settlers to comprehend. The fouls continue, while the ref searches vehemently for his whistle. At least he is searching for it.Recommend

  • Martin Koschuttnig (Vienna/Austria)

    The West-Bank or Gaza was never in the Muslim past, or between 1949 and 1967 a independent State. Arabs political rulers REFUSED the creation of ISRAEL as WELL as the creation of a Muslim state. So Israel is NOT occupying land of another country. As to the Muslims, they got their state when Jordan was created, a country ruled by a king who was not even from this portion of the land. In order to prevent the forming of Israel, MANY Muslims moved into Israel, but when war broke out they refused to fight FOR THEIR NEW land. Many of them left the country in the hope that the Jews would be driven into the sea. But this did not happen. Up to 800.000 Muslim left Israel to be herded by their own brothers in refugee camps for decades. Where are the “refugee-camps for the Sudeten-Germans” in Austria? Or the Refugees leaving what is today Poland? Only a Muslim of the third generation living in a refugee-camp in Jordan can claim to be a refugee, NO OTHER Person in this world does get this privilege! In fact the Sudeten-Germans have the same rights and privileges as any other German in Germany or if they are in Austria, like the Austrians. At some time later nearly ONE Million Jews (many of their ancestors lived centuries in the lands) were driven out of Muslims countries, so what we can see here is a exchange of population! Today sale of Land to the Jews in the West-Bank of Gaza is forbidden.
    So NO Israel does not OCCUPY the West-Bank, Land there is either owned by Arabs or by Jewish Organizations or privately. Recommend

  • Weston Heintz

    Very interesting article. As for the problem, I hope I to see a resolution during my lifetime.Recommend