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.