We are so acclimated to hearing about the "problem in the Middle East" via the media and other references that to many of us, we just accept it as ever existing. There's nothing we can do, according to Israeli spokespeople, Israel has been there for thousands of years and Palestine never really existed. Israel=good guys and Palestine=evil terrorists, right? Isn't that what we, the masses, are supposed to believe?
That beings said...
I happen to disagree, I have been to Palestine, many times, and yes it does exist. There is an entire beautiful culture, a huge population of Palestinians still living there and three times as many (if not more) living as refugees in other countries. I walked the streets of Ramallah as a child and the only violence I ever witnessed was harassment of citizens by Israeli soldiers. I am not saying it does not exist, as there is negativity and violence in every culture, but from what I experienced in Palestine as an young American girl, was peaceful. It reminded me of my visits to the south in America. People greeted each other as they passed on the streets. Families met for lunch with other families in the neighborhoods regularly. Old men played cards in the coffee shops while old ladies sipped tea on their balconies with friends. Weddings lasted for days and families were cherished above all.
Now there are checkpoints and walls cutting through neighborhoods and farmland has been destroyed and/or confiscated. Water and electricity are withheld and life is like a prison for many people in Palestine. When IDF kills citizens of Palestine, it is viewed a military operation, when Palestinians defend themselves, it is considered terrorism.
When UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full member yesterday, there was an uproar. Extreme pride on the face of the Palestinian representatives was apparent and justified. Getting any sort of recognition in any international organization is huge for a nation that is often ignored. The US and Israel have been blocking their official statehood, via vetoes and threats of fund withholding for what seems like forever.
When I was in 4th grade, I attended a program through CPS for kids who excelled in school. In one of the classes we studied world cultures. The teacher gave us little blank pieces of paper and asked us to write the names of our countries of origin on them and place them with a tack on the atlas in the front of the class. I asked for two pieces of paper, one for America and one for Palestine.
As I made my way to the front of the class for my turn, I easily found the United States and then moved east to find Palestine. There were Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon clearly marked. The teacher prompted me to place my last tack and sit down. I told her I could not find Palestine. I knew where it should be, so I placed my paper marked Palestine on Israel. The teacher, clearly not happy with my improper placement, removed the paper and handed it back to me. "There is no Palestine on the map" she said. I was perplexed. "But I was just there. This map is wrong." I replied. Not happy with my stubbornness, she sent me to the principal's office where I explained to the principal that my map at home has Palestine on it. My map in our basement probably dated back to pre-1948 and DID have Palestine on it. It was a world atlas, just like the altered new map in the class. The principal asked me to go back to class and I asked if I could place my paper on Palestine. "No" she said, just go back and sit at your desk. I refused and was told that my parents would be called if I did not comply, so I did. I have regretted that decision ever since.
I should have been more determined, because that is what I was taught, to be proud of who I was and where we were from. I was also taught to respect my teachers, so I did. My mom did come to school the next day and have a rather lengthy discussion with my teacher. I was then allowed to place my paper, which now had a pretty flag drawn on it because I had time at home, on Palestine. Sure, it did not change the fact that Palestine was not really printed on that map, but for the rest of my time in that class, there it was, right where I knew it should be.
Over 100 countries voted yes for the Palestinian membership to UNESCO, and only three, the US, Israel and Australia, voted no. Bravo to UNESCO for taking a stand and congratulations to Palestine for this small step towards placing their own flag on their map in the front of the class.
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