The Palestinian struggle for statehood has been for the most part a violent one. Whether one agrees or disagrees with its violent path and the goals it achieved, it is important to remember that Palestine today is at the verge of becoming once more a part of the international community after seven decades of being denied that right and privilege.
In the west, the mere mention of the words Palestine or Palestinian conjures up images of suicide bombs, hijacking, killing, corruption and violence. This is the result of decades of worldwide Zionist propaganda painting the Palestinians as hardened, dangerous terrorists that should be feared and isolated at any price. This carefully and systematically projected image is often aided and even bolstered by submissive media outlets, repetitive focused messages from fundamentalist Jewish and Israeli quarters, and perhaps more importantly, the violent actions of Palestinians on the ground playing to the above scenario and fueling its message at every chance.
Palestinians as a group, have an “image” problem almost everywhere in the world. The image changes with the landscape and the diversity of every country and every continent. It is however harshest coming from fellow Arabs who adopt the Palestinian cause for their own politics while offer Palestinians absolutely nothing of substance or pragmatism. While Palestinians are viewed favorably in Latin America for example as successful immigrants who contributed greatly to their societies and attained high places in business and government, they continue to be mistreated and abused in refugee camps across the Middle East. The word Palestinian for many Arabs is synonymous of refugee tents soiled by open sewage, rations, poverty, and an unwanted people, underserving of any rights or opportunities. Palestinians are seen in bulk; not as the individuals they are, but as a people in hiatus waiting to return back -- as a bundle -- to their homeland. Even where Palestinians were fully integrated such as in Jordan, the Palestinian-Jordanian polarization becomes apparent at the first sign of political instability in the kingdom.
As I’ve written many times before, being Palestinian today means so many things to so many people. It is as hard to gauge what Palestinians really want in the middle of an historic Arab awakening, as it is to decipher who actually represents them and who speaks for all of them.
As everyone who works tirelessly to change the image of Palestinians in the world will attest, it is not an easy task. It’s an uphill battle. You cannot undo years of masterminded propaganda in just a few days or a few years. It takes consistency and much goodwill to show the world Palestinians as humans who were robbed of their land under the watchful eye of the “civilized” world. It will take many Gates to The Sun to turn around this negative inhumane image of Palestinians that is deeply etched in the minds of many around the world.
As an advocate of nonviolence, I cannot but applaud the bravery of the hundreds of Palestinians who erected a village to pave a road to their Palestine. Netanyahu’s fear of the peaceful demonstrators is obvious. The best proof is sending a heavily armed security force in the middle of the night to forcibly evict the peaceful demonstrators despite a High Court injunction preventing any evacuation.
Although Israel’s actions were swift and caught many by surprise, thus the lack of appropriate media coverage of the story, Palestine today gave the world hundreds of Gandhi’s. I know as many of you do too, that there are thousands of Palestinian Gandhi’s; even tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands waiting to be seen and heard. Will they make history by opening many more gates towards the sun?
*This article was first published in Octavia Nasr’s blog on Jan. 14, 2013.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.