When we returned, we came in peace. We knew that the land is not empty, we knew that there are others living here, but we came in peace. We walked amazed through the land of our fathers, seeing for the first time the landscape we have heard about, dreamed about, all our lives. We were home again and we came in peace.
We bought our lands, sometimes giving all we had for the hills and valleys that once heard the voices of our ancestors. We dug out our ruined cities from the ground, and rejoiced as they saw the light of day again. We found ancient scrolls, ancient writings, and we could read them, because we spoke the same language again. We came back, landed on the shores of home. And we came in peace.
But we were rejected. Britain and France cut the ME to pieces, creating a new division between the Arabs. Suddenly there were Syrians and Lebanese, Trans-Jordanians and Palestinians. Our neighbors were divided by a foreign hand. Then those who lived in the land they called “Falastin” had to make a choice. They were defining themselves, deciding who they are and where they belong. New political forces were created. A national movement was being born. And we kept landing.
Two national movements, one land. We came back home, they lived there already. We were ready to share, some of them also. But not all.
From the turmoil of the Palestinian politics rose a man named Amin el-Husseini. He looked for power and found it in hatred. He became the leader of the Palestinian national movement by teaching violence and fear, by promoting the radicals and advocating war. He and his camp described us as an enemy, a dark force that the Palestinians must unite against. They spoke about us as the new crusaders, foreigners coming to steal and conquer. The simple truth, the vision of us as long lost neighbors coming home, was lost. All Palestinian opposition was crushed and the alleys of the Arab villages were red with blood, poured by el-Husseini’s men in his battle for power. And he won.
Over and over again, wave after wave, under el-Husseini and his lieutenants the Arab majority of Palestine rose against the Jews. Over and over people died, were butchered by a cheering mob, cut by knives, hit by stones, shot by guns – because we were described as “them”, because we were defined as a legit game, because Husseini’s men called us “bilad el-maut” – “children of death”. Over and over they had to make that decision and over and over they chose violence. And that spirit still lives, not only between the Palestinians but throughout the Arab world. Israel is “them”, Israel is an outsider, Israel is abomination, Israel shouldn’t be.
And now it comes to the West. Rumors and assumptions form public opinion. In today’s world when one says “Israel”, the others hear “occupation”. When one says “Zionism” the others hear “racism”. And people forget why we are here. What brought us to those brown hills, and why tears fill our eyes when we see the sunset over Jerusalem. People forget that we walked for centuries to get here, that we were the ones naming the rivers and mountains, that we shared the dream of returning with countless generations, that we are home. People forget that we believe in peace and long for it for more than a century. People forget that in our Declaration of Independence, in the middle of that terrible war of 1948, a day before the Egyptian bombers devastated Tel-Aviv, we stood and called for peace, for sharing, for common future. We still do. People forget that each coin has two sides. People forget that you need two sides to make peace.
In this world of half-truths, of rumors and propaganda, in this reality of biased media and false logic, there is one thing I would ask you to understand. We are not fighting against the Palestinian right to exist as a nation. And we are ready for compromises. We can agree about borders, laws, trade. But there is one thing that is not under any discussion from our point of view, out of any questioning – our right to live as an independent nation here, in the Land of Israel. Here we stand united. And this is what we are fighting for.