By Carol Stirling.
Published January 10, 2011
Palestinian Arabs are an Arabic-speaking Mediterranean people with family origins in Palestine. In the areas of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, they constitute around 50% of all inhabitants. The remainder of Palestinians comprise what is known as the Palestinian diaspora, of whom more than half are stateless refugees, lacking citizenship in any country. Of the diaspora, about 2.6 million make up half the population of neighboring Jordan. One-and-a-half million are shared between Syria and Lebanon and a quarter million are in Saudi Arabia. Chile’s half million Palestinians are the largest concentration outside the Arab world.
By religious affiliation, most Palestinians are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam. A significant minority of Palestinian Christians lives in the Palestinian territories.
Two events this year encouraged me to learn more about the Palestinians and their current state of affairs. We have a local group called Voices for Palestine in Boise. “Voices” and the Idaho Peace Coalition hosted a visit from Cindy and Craig Corrie of Washington state. The Corries’ daughter Rachel, American peace activist, was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli Military bulldozer in Gaza while defending a Palestinian family’s home from demolition. The Corrie family is currently involved in a civil suit against the government of Israel on charges of “gross negligence” and that Rachel was denied “basic human rights.”
The Corries are founders of the Rachel Corrie Foundation, which continues Rachel’s work with her vision, spirit, and creative energy in mind. The foundation encourages and supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice—all considered prerequisites for world peace.
The other significant event in my Palestinian education was my trip to Israel in October of 2010. I met a young Palestinian woman reporter from Bethlehem who spoke about human rights violations of Palestinians by the Israeli government. Israel continues to tighten its grip on the Palestinian territories, with peoples and land separated by barrier walls. Palestinians face some 20 laws that discriminate against them with court decisions also stacked against them. Israel controls the Jordan River Valley so has completely enclosed the Palestinians in their shrunken and divided territory of the West Bank. Gaza is surrounded by a similar barrier with no access to the outside world by air, sea or land. Palestinian refugees and exiles continue to be denied the right to return.
I recommend Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid for an extensive look at the attempts at peace from 1948 (formation of the state of Israel) to the present. President Carter believes in two keys to peace in the region: Israel must recognize and abide by the resolutions, accords and policies since 1948 that require Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. Palestinians must accept the same commitment made by the 23 Arab nations in 2002 that recognize Israel’s right to lie in peace within its legal borders.
Carol Stirling a member of Boise First Congregational UCC. She is active in numerous local and international human rights issues.