Recently, Anaheim hosted the Sixth International Al-Awda Convention, where Palestinian Arabs worldwide converged to talk about their "right of return" and the "ethnic cleansing" that was inflicted on them.
It is striking how much Jew-hatred can occur without the single mentioning of the word "Jew." It is also interesting to contrast how Palestinian Arabs speak to each other, how Palestinian Arab Muslims speak to each other and how they speak to the Western world.
The highlight of the Al-Awda convention was the evening banquet featuring Bishop Atallah Hanna and Chief Justice Sheikh Taiseer Al-Tamimi.This is an interesting assertion. "Palestinians" often claim to the West that they are the original habitants of the land, descended from the Canaanites. The Canaanites were not Arab, and Palestine was invaded by Arabs in the wake of the dawning of Islam.
"Palestine is and will be Arab until the Day of Judgement," said Sheikh Taiseer. "Occupations come and go but Palestine persevered and maintained its Arab-ness. Palestinian cities will remain forever Arab."
But in a room full of Arabs, that narrative disappears.
Bishop Atallah echoed Sheikh Taiseer's words, underlining that Palestinians -- both Christian and Muslim -- are "one nation, one people". "Today we emphasise that the right of return is as holy as Jerusalem. It is inalienable, non- negotiable, and sacred," said Bishop Atallah. "The occupation failed at killing the resistance and the evidence is you," he added.When they talk to a Western audience they take pains to say that the Jews who lived in Palestine continuously since the days of the Second Temple are also "Palestinian" and would have the same rights to the land as they do. But in a room full of Arab Christians and Muslims, the Jews' rights to this land literally disappear.
The convention also attracted its usual non-Arab supporters:
Richard Becker, a founder of the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition expressed his "full solidarity" with the Palestinian people. Becker told the audience, "No empire built on oppression is stable", adding, "No empire lasts forever."And here's a nice piece of doublespeak:
"We stand in solidarity, we stand in awe of you, we are inspired by you," said John Parker of the New York-based International Action Centre. "From the river to the sea, we will not stop until all of us are free."
The convention featured a number of prominent speakers including Ilan Pappe, a leading historian on the Middle East. Pappe called "Zionist ideology" the motivating force behind the Nakba, adding that now, unlike in 1948, "we know what Zionism is all about, we understand the strategy of Israel." He described the Nakba as ethnic cleansing.
Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, spoke about achieving a democratic, secular, multicultural state that gives equal rights to all its citizens. "Zionism represents exclusionist claims and separations. We must keep repeating to people that Israel is not a secular state and does not treat its citizens equally," said Makdisi.No one seriously believes that a Palestine would be any more secular and inclusive than any other Arab state, and the other speakers (as well as the "Palestinian constitution") make clear that this state would be "Arab," and even Muslim, not multi-cultural.
Yet, as Makdisi points out, the point is not a reflection of the reality of how yet another Arab State, but rather a talking point to "keep repeating to people."
Salman Abu Sitta called the Nakba the "largest, longest operation of planned ethnic cleansing in history". He called it the 90th year of the longest war against a single people. Abu Sitta described Zionist objectives as threefold: conquering, eliminating and destroying Palestinian history. Abu Sitta said that today Palestinians number seven times more than they were in 1948. "In this open conflict, we haven't surrendered," he said. He called Gaza the biggest concentration camp in the world. "I call it the new Auschwitz," said Abu Sitta.Among friends, it is easy to be inconsistent ("ethnic cleansing" vs. the Palestinian Arab population explosion) as well as clearly anti-semitic in equating Gaza to Auschwitz.
And, standing in the United States, what are the means that need to be used to overthrow the Zionist regime?
Asad Abu Khalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of The Angry Arab blog, spoke about new dangers in the Arab world, including how Zionism has won allies among nearly all Arab regimes. "After 60 years, we should be aware how Zionism has its tentacles throughout Arab media and government," said Abu Khalil. He said the battle against Zionism could only succeed if launched against Arab regimes in their alliance with the US.So use politics to weaken US influence and use war to eradicate Jews from the Middle East.
Despite the successes of Zionism, Abu Khalil added, there are signs of its failures. "The 2006 war on Lebanon revealed a path of struggle against Israel that can be mounted if joined by Arabs -- not regimes -- of different countries."
What word is missing here? Yes, the good archbishop does not foresee Palestine nor Jerusalem as including any members of a certain third religion, let alone any others.
Bishop Atallah said that what makes Jerusalem a unique city is its religious diversity. Muslims go to mosques and Christians go to churches, he said, praying for one God and "asking Him to relieve their oppression and to give them freedom."
Bishop Atallah travelled to the US from Palestine to attend the Al-Awda convention along with Chief Justice Sheikh Taiseer Al-Tamimi. Both religious leaders came to address the importance of the right of return and to emphasise strong unity among Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
"My presence with Sheikh Taiseer is a focus on our unity," said Bishop Atallah. "Our religions can never divide us. We are proud of both Christians and Muslims."
This is the Palestinian Arab definition of "diversity" - one that includes only Arabs.
And when Muslims get together, any mention of Christians similarly disappear, as they emphasize the Islamic aspects of Palestine.
All of the pretenses of equal rights, of desiring peace, of multiculturalism, of negotiations - they all get stripped away when Palestinian Arabs speak amongst themselves. To them, Israel is just a temporal anomaly, and better that their people should suffer for centuries hence than to accept the existence of any non-Arabs - and especially Jews - on what they consider Arab lands.