How do you identify yourself?
Do you consider yourself Canadian? Jewish? Zionist? Israeli? Other?
It can be difficult to turn on the news, read a newspaper, or check social media without seeing anti-Israel comments. We are up in arms every time we hear someone say that Israel does not deserve to exist or denies that the Holocaust happened. Israel cannot even communicate directly with the elected government of Gaza because the Hamas government denies recognition of Israel or its government.
But when was the last time that you heard someone deny the existence of Palestine or of the Palestinian people? It’s an argument that may not receive the same attention as Israel, but there are certainly vocal people who claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. Some say that, when the Romans conquered Judea, they called the people “Philistines.” They called them that because it was a word used to describe people who were uncultured or barbaric – it was a racial slur of sorts. Palestine then derived from that word, and some people then used it to identify themselves.
So what gives anyone the right to say, then, that there is no such thing as a Palestinian? Regardless where you stand on the conflict in the Middle East, no one has the right to deny a group of people the right to identify themselves. Currently, there is no country of Palestine that exists. However, we are getting close.
There are international requirements necessary for a country to be founded and recognized internationally as a nation. But there are no laws to tell a person what they require in order to give themselves an identity. An identity is something personal, emotional, and meaningful to each individual, and no one has the right to tell someone that they don’t have a right to their own identity.
It pains me every time that I see someone argue that the word “Palestinian” should not be used because it doesn’t exist because the country currently does not exist in a manner that is recognized internationally. It’s not a public relations ploy. It’s not trying to claim that one thing exists because the other is recognized. It’s someone’s identity, and there is a level of respect that every human from every walk of life deserves.
I honestly believe and support the idea that, one day, we will find a three-state solution that I hope will end the Middle East conflict involving Israel. But how are we to ever make the steps to peace when we can’t allow a fundamental level of humanity and respect for all upon which we can to build and achieve greater goals?
Someone has to begin that process, and a basic level of respect is never a bad place to begin.