Can they call Palestine home?

Published: May 20, 2012

It's ironic that the most powerful nations and the champions of human rights do not recognise the ‘State of Palestine’. PHOTO: REUTERS

11:oo pm

Global Village, Dubai

My sisters and I were running wildly to catch a bus. The bus was, apparently, the only cheap way home and it was to leave in the next 15 minutes.

11:15 pm

My sister, laden with shopping bags, walked to the bus stand to get some information from two obscure figures seated under a dark shed – two young women wrapped in printed headscarves, wearing identical leather overcoats, bracing themselves against the chill in the air.

Hey, do you know about the bus? Where is it headed?

We are waiting ourselves. Don’t know. We are not from Dubai.

Where are you from then?

We are from Palestine

Oh, really! I am from Pakistan. It is such a pleasure to meet you.

And really, it was! They shook our hands vigorously, their pretty cheeks flushed red.

So what exactly were they doing in Dubai?

In their broken English and heavily accented Arabic, they explained that they were in Dubai to attend a conference. Over the rapidly forming bond, they excitedly told us about the attractions they had seen and that we too, must visit Ferrari World and Atlantis.

We were curious about our new friends, especially since the bus we sat in was brimming with people of other nationalities. Too many Indians, Sri Lankans, and Chinese. All, but those of our kin.

Wait a minute, what exactly was I basing the kinship on?

12:00 am

Bus depot

The bus finally started to move. Over the ensuing conversation between the two Palestinian girls and my sister (since I was too far, too cold and too tired to participate), they revealed their everyday lives and talked about their dreams and hopes.

They lived in Jericho and told us that it is the lowest city in the world. Listening to them, I could feel the enchantment of the historic city. This is what Travel Palestine says about this city:

How about visiting the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth? Jericho is a peaceful town that dates back to some 10,000 years. This city, also known as moon god, is called Ariha in Arabic and lies 260 meters below sea level, the lowest city in the world. Layers of 23 civilisations have been uncovered here

The two girls were pursuing their bachelors, and one of them was interested in the field of marketing. It was good to know that they were educating themselves, despite the everyday challenges they had to face.

They also told us that they had to travel all the way to Amaan in Jordon to catch a flight to Dubai – sadly, there is no airport in Palestine. It hit me then that we, in Pakistan, take our lives and blessings for granted.

Remaining true to their tradition of altruism, they hastily looked around for something, anything, to give us as a souvenir; one reached in her bag for some coins from back home.

My sister thanked her, asking her what their currency was called.

“Oh, we do not have our own currency. We use the Israeli currency, the Shekel,” she replied with some difficulty, or perhaps it was the feeling of loss that I sensed.

I felt sad. What have we done for Palestine? Wikipedia says :

The State of Palestine is recognised today by approximately two-thirds of the world’s countries, although this status is not recognised by the United Nations, Israel and major Western nations such as the United States.

There you go. The most powerful nations and the champions of human rights do not recognise the State of Palestine. Who then is the pariah? Who is the abandoned? I was speechless. This is the land of the most revered Hazrat Musa, Hazrat Isa and countless other prophets. This website says:

Palestine is the land of prophets. Many prophets were born in or died in Palestine, including Prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Lut (Lot), Dawood (David), Suleiman (Solomon), Musa (Moses), and Isa (Jesus).

Another website says:

Jesus Christ walked through the streets of Jericho during his several visits to the town.

Nabi Musa is a beautiful 12th century mazar (pilgrimage shrine) on the old pilgrim road. Believed to be the spot where the prophet Moses is buried, it is named after him

What remains now is a land of conflict. Is Palestine really the country of these young ladies or are they just refugees?

12:30 am

Trade Centre, mainland Dubai

The bus driver prompted that our drop-off point had come. Our time to part came so swiftly. We stepped down from the bus and went our way. I wish we had more time to acquaint ourselves with those of our own.

I wish my countrymen, and the people at the helm of affairs, did more for our brothers and sisters in Palestine; more for the land of al Aqsa, which we were commanded to turn towards when the five daily prayers were first enjoined; more for the land where Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) journey of Isra took him before he ascended the heavens on Miraj to meet the prophets before him.

I wish we did more.

Sidra Taj

Sidra Taj

The writer is a banker by profession.

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

  •!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Q: Can they call Palestine home?
    PM Gilani: Who is stopping you?Recommend

  • amir

    Nice post but champions of human rights ? > usa They stopped their unesco funding after the recognition of palestine in unesco. Champion bullies is the correct term to describe these two faced fascists

  • PM Gilani

    @ Noman Ansari:
    Next question plzzzRecommend

  • Saima

    I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing. Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Please solve the problems of your own country and then move on to the rest of the world.Recommend

  • Awais

    By mentioning the prophets you’ve kinda implied that the israeli/palestine conflict is a religious issue besides a political one. If anything, I think religion is one of the main causes of it. Recommend

  • G. Din

    Palestinians are one of the most intelligent peoples of the Middle East. Most of them are accomplished professionals. Ironically, they are not intelligent enough to understand that the “Dream of Palestine” was always stillborn and has receded into the mists of Time long ago and that it is time to make a new beginning. What is being played out is a charade by Arab powers beguiling of their simple minds. Take a good hard look on “leaders” of Palestine. Observe how well-fed and well-draped they are in contrast to the general run of people barely eking out an existence. A collection of refugee camps, populated with real human beings barely surviving on scanty hand-outs and hand-downs, fed on false and unrealizable hopes, does not constitute a nation. Time to call off this charade and settle the remaining people on other Arab lands!Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @Big Rizvi:
    Yeah Right… in that pretext nobody is perfect every country has a problems, then why world united to create the UNO. Why we use these terms when we don’t get benefit for ourselves by resolving any one else ‘s issue. what the use of foreign ministry then if we can’t make a point and say some thing are going on pretty bad some where. There will be never ending problems forever but that would be quite selfish to ignore some who are having “Bigger” share of a bitter luck for quite some time.Recommend

  • Mj

    Exactly, both sides believe that God has granted them the area and only they have exclusive rights over it. The issue would’ve been solved eons ago were it not for the religious entanglements.Recommend

  • Unknown

    Mashallah, really a distinctive way of writing for Palestine…..
    for the 1st time em reading such a Gr8 blog on tribune…..!!!!!Recommend

  • A reader

    Well, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Hindus and Sikhs of West Punjab and Sindh, and the Hindu Pandits of Kashmir all lost their homelands due to Islamic incursions and the subsequent extremism that it spawned. Will supporters of an independent Palestine also support independent homelands for all of these groups carved out of the Islamic nations of Iran and Pakistan? If the name of the game is human rights, then the answer should be yes. However, I must conclude that many of those in the Islamic world confuse ‘Human rights’ with Islamic political activism. They are NOT one and the same. Political activism of any kind is not based on a set of universal principals and values as is the case with Human rights. I was always curious about what Palestinians felt about Arabs conquering and converting Iran into an Islamic country since this resulted in the displacement of Zoroastrians from the only known Zoroastrian nation (pre Islamic Iran) as a result of Arab military incursion.Recommend

  • Rehan

    The actual massacre is in Balochistan.

  • kaalchakra

    My eyes are moist with sympathy. Thank you for touching the hearts of us all. How can some people be so cruel as to deprive others of their traditional homes in the name of religious identity? Allah knows and will punish the evil doers.Recommend

  • ardi shooki

    @G. Din: It is difficult to give up a dream. Recommend

  • drenched in deep thots

    All hail OIC and Arab league….what a pity they cant even make their own decision within their home…. long-live defenders and servants of holy mosques…keep driving your SUVs…keep living in lavish palaces and keep maintaining harems full of women and let the Palestinians die either through malnutrition or at the hands of your worst enemy. All these pious arab leaders are destined for heaven surely.Recommend

  • 123

    Beautiful article ! touched my heart…….. thank u so much ! Recommend

  • Ali

    @A reader:
    You are blissfully ignorant on Fox propaganda that Islam was spread by the sword. Get an education. Muslims did not carry out a genocide in Iran after overthrowing its corrupt government (cannot say the same for Gaza, can you?). Large number of public converted by virtue of work from Muslim scholars and because Muslim rulers brought prosperity for the region (not the kind that USA is busy bringing in Afghanistan and Iraq)Recommend

  • Isra

    Don’t see the point of this article. Recommend

  • Girl

    Good thing you wrote this. These are major issues and SHOULD be frequently talked about in order to be recognized. Palestine or Pakistan, never loose hope justice shall prevail inshaAllah
    As for the Superpowers ‘the bigger they are the harder they fall’Recommend

  • raw is war

    there are two sides to every conflict. Once upon a time Inida supported Palestine. But no more.Recommend

  • Awais

    Oh C’mon! If there was no “convert or die” then it was “pay up if you want to keep practising your faith”. I’m not gonna lay a smackdown on Islam in particular because I think almost every religion has a atrocity carried out in its name.Recommend

  • Awais

    I agree, there are plenty of cases where miscarraige of justice has taken place in the United States. God bless America ;)Recommend

  • Vishnu Dutta

    @A reader:
    Finally a sane reply. its easy to see and sympathize to the pain of your own “kin” but its next to impossible to see what you have done to others.
    I dont care about Arabs or jews. but then jews have never attacked my country and killed millions.Recommend

  • John B

    This article and all its “love” is based purely on commonality of Islamic belief and bond. Here are the facts: hence, biased.

    Palestine – Israeli conflict is exactly India – Pakistan conflict of 1947 and by the very nature of religion between Jews and Muslims they don’t get along , as they did in Indian subcontinent.

    No Arab country wants to support the establishment of Palestine economy and all the Palestine refugees living in surrounding countries still live in refugee status, but not in US.

    US gives more monetary aid to Palestine than any Muslim country, from the beginning. Palestine liberation organization, in support of Egypt screwed up the whole thing.

    All Palestine had to do in 1946 was recognize Israel’s right to live next to Palestine, as India and PAK did in 1947 : well, exactly what Iran is saying today, Arafat said in 1970s.

    The plight of Palestine is deplorable in many fronts and it is too naive to say US does not recognize Palestine. Neither does UN.- Palestine just has an observation status and representation.

    As long as Muslims believe in day of resurrection ( and all know what every Muslim will be saying pointing to the tree) there won’t be any peace between these two tribes. End of story and that is the reality. Recommend

  • Vishnu Dutta


    You think parsis left their land because they felt adventerous, or hindus of afghanistan, sikhs, christians, jews and hindus of pakistan, or hindus of bangladesh or hindus of srinagar just felt like they need to go for vacations.
    i think you need to stop falling for the hateful brainwashing of mullah.
    truth will set you my friend, you just have to accept it.Recommend

  • Shehryar

    @G. Din:
    The lack of knowledge in your post is appalling. I don’t think the Jews, who made up 3% of Palestine’s population in 1900 gave up on the ‘Dream of Israel’. You don’t simply give in to colonialism. There are 1.6 million Arabs in Israel and more than 3 million in the Palestinian territories. They will outnumber Jewish Israelis by 2050. Israel is responsible for massacres (Deir Yasin-wikipedia it), land grabs (78% of the land when it was assigned only 50%, and don’t get me started on the settlements), and daily racism. I wish people would educate themselves on the issue better before making sweeping statements. The Dream of Palestine is alive and well.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    @Fahad Raza: Take it easy, we are only a small country with big problems. If we went out like Superman (up, up and away style) to save Palestine, we would’nt even enough electricity and fuel to power us for a few weeks. Like I said, first solve your problems, then see what to do next. We have so many pressures to deal with, terrorism to deal and the list goes on. He’ll our budget deficit is increasing everytime that it has become irrestorable, we are in a very terrible situation. It is not about being selfish, we are not some super heros. Look! How many men in Kargil died! Did anybody say anything about ‘Muslim brothers’ dieing in Pakistan/India? No. So similarily, how can we EVEN try and help a country when we cannot help ourselves? To do so would be to shoot ourselves on our own feet.Recommend

  • abhi

    only if sentiments can replace fact!

    All the prophets you are counting are the prophets of israelies too, except jesus. Also if you have al aqsa in jews of sacred temple of soloman. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Vishnu, could you kindly keep your wisdom to yourselves? Other that the Chinese Muslims (whose Islam is very much in doubt), every Muslim on earth has a right on Pakistan’s sympathies. If you call that just crazy, so be it. Recommend

  • G. Din

    “@G. Din:
    The lack of knowledge in your post is appalling. I don’t think the Jews, who made up 3% of Palestine’s population in 1900 gave up on the ‘Dream of Israel’.”

    Jews, throughout their 5000 year history never gave up on the “Dream of Israel”. Everytime a Jew had to say Good-Bye to a friend in any country of the world, he would wish: “Next year in Israel”. That “next year” came in 1949. If you are looking for percentages, what was their percentage 5000 years ago when Islam itself was non-existent? But, you won’t recognize that. For a Muslim, History of any land starts on the day when he and his brother Muslims found themselves on the right foot in that land. That is why every land in the world is a Muslim land so cruelly snatched from them.
    Palestinians are squatters on the land that was Jewish from time immemorial.
    “The Dream of Palestine is alive and well.”
    So, keep dreaming on! Just like the Pakistani dream for Kashmir. But, if you are rational and you don’t want to wake up to a nightmare, try biting the bullet of reality!Recommend

  • Awais

    Probably to raise awareness about whats going on in Palestine and IsraelRecommend

  • Shehryar

    @G. Din:
    Again, you seem to miss the point and display a lack of insight.
    The Kingdom of Israel itself lasted only 200 years, the Arab period over 1,300. Borders and populations are not historical constants. If you think one nation (Britain) giving a second (the Jews) the land of a third (the Palestinians) is justified, then I can’t have a rational discussion with you.

    The Palestinians, through genetic studies, have been proved to be a mixture of Jews, Arabs, Crusaders and other peoples of that area. They have a historic claim to that piece of land and removing a nation from their homeland is known as ethnic cleansing. This is exactly what Israel did in 1948. 750,000 Palestinians were expelled, forbidden from returning and their land was expropriated by Israel.

    Coming to the religious assertion, let me tell you that not all Palestinians are ”brother Muslims” – they are a rich blend of Muslim, Christian, Circassian and Druze. Israel did not just destroy Muslim villages in 1948 – Dozens of Christian villages were besieged and their occupants forced to leave. Take Kfar Birim or Iqrit for example. Catholic Palestinians. Expelled. Made homeless. Killed.

    Viewing this conflict through a religious scope does not do it justice.

    ”Just like the Pakistani dream for Kashmir” – On what basis do you make that comparison? Certainly the Pakistani ”dream” for Kashmir has no basis in ancient Biblical assertions and doesn’t involve large scale expulsion. Recommend

  • Shehryar

    As for all the Indians, Hindus and Islamic apologists trying to equate Palestinian land rights to perceived religious injustices, please grow up. Firstly, it bothers me how willing Indians like Vishnu are to preach to us about the crimes of Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular with regards to religious minorities.

    While I am all for minority rights, let me tell you that as an ethnic Kashmiri/Punjabi Muslim (by birth anyway) who’s family was forced to flee by the actions of Sikh extremists in 1947, I can safely argue that there are two sides to every story. True, Hindus and Sikhs were purged from West Punjab. Then again, so were Muslims from East Punjab. Many Muslims remained in India because they lived in provinces far away from the communal violence. Most Hindus/Sikhs in Pakistan lived in Punjab and Sindh where they left due to communal violence.

    Before you try preaching on Pakistani websites (I really hope you find better uses of your time), get your own faith’s history straight. Hinduism was brought to the subcontinent by the barbaric Aryan tribes who killed the local Dravidians en masse and established a cruel caste system rooted in racism that has lasted 3,000 years. Don’t whitewash your own history. Like Awais aptly put it ”I’m not gonna lay a smackdown on Islam in particular because I think almost every religion has a atrocity carried out in its name.”

    A lot of you have also been speaking in terms of 5,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago etc. I was baffled when ”A reader” said he wondered what Palestinians would make of the Zoroastrian’s expulsion. Palestinians are not responsible for what a group of marauding savages did more than a thousand years ago. If we are to be held responsible for what our ancestors did millennia ago then I doubt any of us have a clean slate.

    Like I said earlier, borders and populations are not historical constants. Islam may or may not have been spread by force in Iran but all I know is that most people there are glad to be Muslim today. So let’s bury the hatchet and focus on today. Let’s work to ensure that Hindus who remain in Pakistan are given a fair deal. Let’s work to ensure that Palestinians have a fair shot at statehood, having been recognised by 2/3rds of the world’s nations anyway. And let’s please find other venues for our one sided religious prejudices than the websites of other countries’ newspapers, yes? :)Recommend

  • hassan

    ohhh puhlease, don’t let your hearts bleed for the poor Palestines. They are well off, than most of us, for God’s sake.

    They had so many chances to bring peace to their land and they blew it every single time. LTTE leaders, Kashmiri leaders, Palestine leaders…..the story is same. they just want to keep the fire and conflict alive. (The silver lining in this arrangement is that many in this affected are able to get immigration status to developed countries thus getting a good standard of life.)

    The world is moving on, grappling newer challenges and they have no time for those who want to perennially milk international sympathy for power and money games.Recommend

  • HaninZoabi

    Palestinians (not ”palestines” hassan) are not better off than you let me guarentee
    Its israels leaders that keep building settlements and continue the occupation of west bank

    Are you indian? Recommend

  • hassan

    “Palestinian Arabs are highly literate, richer and healthier than people in most other Arab countries, thanks to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the blackmail payments of Western as well as Arab governments. As refugees, they live longer and better than their counterparts in adjacent Arab countries. It is not surprising that they do not want to be absorbed into other Arab countries and cease to be refugees. ”

    Read more here: (Asia Times Online is published from Hong Kong and IS NOT a Jewish Publication.)

    Every Palestinian wants to immigrate to US (the country run by Jewish lobbies) but not to any friendly Arab countries. Every wondered why ?Recommend

  • hassan


    What Do the Arabs of East Jerusalem Really Want?

    According to face-to-face surveys conducted according to the highest international standards, more Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state. In addition, 40 percent said they would probably or definitely move in order to live under Israeli rather than Palestinian rule.

    44 percent of the Palestinians in Jerusalem say they are very, or at least somewhat, satisfied with their standard of living. This is a very high percentage compared to other populations in the Arab world. Only about 30 percent sympathize with either Fatah or Hamas or with the Israeli Arab Islamic movement. Politics is not a major preoccupation.


  • Cynical


    I am less sympathetic towards the palestinian cause today than I was a decade ago for the reasons already touched upon by @hassan.

    But I must say this. Your grasp of the orgin and the expanse of the Palestinian problem is very scholarly.It’s a pleasure to come across such informed and cultured post on these forums where taking cheap pot shots is the norm.

  • Shehryar

    @Hassan You are totally incorrect in thinking Palestinian Arabs are ”rich and well-educated” – The per capita income in Israel is $32,000. In the Palestinian territories it just touched $3000. That’s about the same as say India, a third world developing country. They are denied freedom of movement and subjected to humiliating road blocks while their land is usurped by racist settlers protected by the IDF. Students from Gaza aren’t able to go to university in the West Bank.

    You want to talk statistics? Let’s talk statistics.

    ”A poll released early this year by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in conjunction with the Avi Chai Foundation found that 70% of Israeli Jews believe that Jews are “the Chosen people,” with 61% advocating that “pubic life should be in accordance with Jewish religious tradition.” Less than half of those polled (48%) thought that civil marriage should be allowed in Israel. Additionally, as Ha’aretz put it, “only 44 percent said that if Jewish law and democratic values clashed, the latter should always be preferred.” Eli Silver, director of Avi Chai–Israel, analyzed the results this way: “The results of the survey are evidence that Israeli Jews are committed to two significant values: preserving Jewish tradition on the one hand, and upholding individual freedom of choice on the other.” Sound familiar? Perhaps Silver also thinks that means Israel is ripe for regime change.

    But most other public opinion polls conducted in Israel tell a far more sinister story. A September 2011 poll conducted by IDI showed that one-third of Israeli Jews (33%) don’t think Palestinian citizens of Israel should have equal rights with their Jewish counterparts, claiming that Arabs are not Israelis. The poll also found that “77.9% of Jews inside Israel say that Arabs inside Israel should not be allowed to participate in the crucial, political, economic and even social decisions in Israel.”

    An October 2010 poll by the Dahaf Institute found that 36% of Israel Jews “are in favor of revoking the voting rights.” It also reported that “55% of those polled justify harming freedom of speech in times of political difficulty, and 57% oppose non-violent protests held during military operations.”

    In March 2010, a poll conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute revealed that while 80% of Israeli high school students say they prefer a democratic form of government (amazingly, 16% actually said they desired a dictatorship), over 49% do not support equal rights being granted to both Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel. 56% of the high school students polled believed Arabs should not be allowed to vote, while 32% said they would not even want to have an Arab friend. One out of every six students would not want to study in the same class with an Ethiopian or an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and 21% of them think that “Death to Arabs” is a legitimate expression. Additionally, 48% insisted they would refuse official orders to evacuate illegal West Bank settlements if they were serving in the Israeli military (for which 91% of respondents were eager to enlist).

    Just a few months later, in September 2010, another poll of Israeli teenagers was conducted, this time by a professor from the Statistics Department of Tel Aviv University. It found that “96 percent of the respondents want Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state, but 27 percent believe that those who object should be tried in court, and 41 percent support stripping them of their citizenship.” The poll also revealed that a full 50% of all Jewish Israeli high schoolers didn’t want Arab students to share their classrooms.”

    Thank you Cynical. The Palestinian leadership is sorely lacking but I put the lack of progress down more to Arab complacency with regards to Israel as a whole rather than PA inefficiency. Recommend

  • vickram


    “Hinduism was brought to the subcontinent by the barbaric Aryan tribes who killed the local Dravidians en masse and established a cruel caste system rooted in racism that has lasted 3,000 years.”

    Straight out of Pakistan curriculum. Sadly, it is not correct. No one believes the Aryan Invasion Theory propounded by Max Mueller any more. No one brought Hinduism (btw, there is no religion called Hinduism) to India.

    Caste system is a social heirarchial system meant for a particular milieu and society. No one introduced it in Bharat. A system similar to caste prevails all over the world. Let me give an example: In Army, a sepoy, cannot sit next to an officer and eat in officers canteen. A sepoy’s son cannot dream of marrying the daughter of a general, unless he has a death wish. A clerk in a bank cannot talk to the chief executive without going through several intermediaries. CEO of an organization will not live next door to his flunkey. These are hierarchical system still practiced, call it cruel if you will, they are here everywhere.Recommend

  • HaninZoabi

    justifying the caste system and criticising pakistan for being discriminatory…convenient double standard vickram. A question, what are you indians doing stalking this website anyway?Recommend

  • Firaaq

    I would agree with your assertion that conflicts and conflict zones give birth to a unique kind of endless carrion feast .. with very peculiar carrion birds that feed off the carrion on offer.
    In the case of the Palestinians, they are surely more sinned against than they have sinned..
    Their brotherly neighbour arab countries of course are entirely another matter.
    That Latter Day commander of the faithful, Mard e momin, Gen Zia helped send quite a few Palestinians to the eternal hunting grounds.. probably more of them than most Israeli Caudillos.
    The King of Jordan, the Egyptian ruling classes, the Syrians, various hues of Lebanese, Saudi “richie rich” princes etc. all have stirred this pot and none of them smell of roses ..

    I have been to and lived in what was historical Palestine .. and I was amazed to discover that the worst atrocities carried out in the Occupied territories were the handiwork of Druze Arab and Circassian units of the IDF…
    So, over simplification of the dark forces at work in that blighted region isn’t a wise idea… There is lots of grey here … “black and white” aint the way to goRecommend

  • AA

    “If you think one nation (Britain) giving a second (the Jews) the land of a third (the Palestinians) is justified, then I can’t have a rational discussion with you.”

    Yeah, agree… How about the pieces of land your government has been gifting to your ‘all-weather’ friends? Does that land parcel belong to you guys?

    Rational your thinking is; I hope it remains rational in Indo-Pak matters as well…Recommend