Open Letter to Oprah
I am so glad that you will be visiting my country, Palestine. I wish if I could be there to greet you. Certainly, despite the genocide and ethnic cleansing they face every hour of the day, my people will be there. They will be happy to see you and will receive you with open arms.
Unfortunately, I cannot be there! My family tree and my roots in Palestine go back to time immemorial, long before Islam, Christianity and Judaism came into being. Last July, I was given entry to my homeland only as a tourist, with an American passport and a Japanese camera. Though I am 70 years old, I had to stand at the Israeli immigration window at Sheikh Hussein entry point on the Jordan River for over seven hours before I was allowed in to visit my home and family. Months earlier, Canadian Jews were processed and given Israeli citizenship to my land while they were 35,000 feet high over the Atlantic.
Arabs, throughout history, are known to be hospitable to their guests. You will be no exception. For many centuries, Jews escaped the discrimination and death they were subjected to in Europe, and found safety and refuge among us. Muslims believe in Christianity and Judaism. The Quran states there is no distinction between Muhammad, Jesus and Moses. Therefore, according to our Islamic teachings, all are prophets of God and all must be honored and respected.
You must know that Zionist Jews from all over the world, particularly Europe, came to my Palestine, not as guests, but as settlers and occupiers in the early part of the 20th century. The natives were referred to as “snakes” from which the land must be cleansed. In 1948 they occupied 72% of my land and emptied out over 500 Arab (Christian and Muslim) towns and villages. In 1967 they occupied the remaining 28%. Six million of us have been living in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon for the last fifty nine years, even though the United Nations ordered the Israeli government to allow us to return (1948 UN resolution 194).
Our Palestine is so beautiful. You will enjoy it. It is a museum. So many civilizations have mixed and melted there. Throughout history, invaders came and finally left. We remained. We survived. As we offered the Crusaders who occupied our holy lands for two hundred years, Jews can stay and share our land, if they wish to live in a free and democratic Palestine that respects the rights of all, regardless of their religion, race, or ethnicity. Those who refuse and insist to live in an apartheid state will inevitably pack up and return to their native lands.
Please, visit Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, and Nazareth within the so-called Green Line. Take pleasure in the aroma of our orange orchards on the Mediterranean coast. Drive to the top of the Mount of al-Carmel and enjoy its beauty and the splendid view.
Elie Wiesel, your host, will take you to the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to show you the crimes committed by the Germans against the Jews. Undoubtedly, when the visit is completed, he will attempt to usher you away; but if you look down across the valley you can see the site of the massacre of the village of Deir Yassin. Hundreds of armless and helpless Arab men, women, and children were shot to death, by the Irgun, Wiesel’s associates and friends, in April 1948. The remaining women survivals were paraded in trucks through the streets of Jerusalem. I can never forget this scene, just can’t. My family, among the thousands of Palestinians, had to flee. “NEVER AGAIN” are two hollow words. They don’t apply to non-Jews.
Oprah, I beg you not to forget visiting Gaza and the West Bank where over three million of us still live. All attempts made to force them leave and run for their lives have failed. Take pictures of the 700 kilometer apartheid wall and reflect on the political messages of the graffiti it displays. I was struck by one of these messages at the entry to Bethlehem. “Thou not steal.” Confiscation of our lands, however, continues until this day.
Experience some of the military check points where our people have to stand in line for hours before they are allowed to cross. Witness the harassment and degradation my people are subjected to. A 20 minute journey from a village to another takes 7 hours. Many pregnant Arab women have lost their babies while waiting for clearance on their way to hospitals. There are over 550 of these checkpoints that divide our land into ghettos in the West Bank alone. Though the water we get does not meet our basic needs, notice the swimming pools Israelis enjoy in settlements built on our stolen lands.
Of course, the highlight of your trip will be the performance of pilgrimage in Jerusalem, the city of Jesus. It is also the city of my birth. The school I attended is the site of the palace where he received his death sentence. My home is only a couple of blocks away from the Via Dolorosa, the path he took to his crucifixion. Walk through the narrow and curved alleys where he walked. I did that without interruption for 23 years. Those days are gone.
Oprah, stand on top of the Mount of Olives, as I often did, and experience the glory and majesty of Jerusalem, its al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Holy Sepulcher, and other houses of worship. Observe the magnificence of the ancient wall built by Muslims to defend and protect these priceless treasures. Hear al-azan, the Muslim call for prayer, as it joins in unison with bells coming from Christian churches. What an eternal symphony!
Please proceed to the village of Bethany, three miles to the east. Go down the steps of the cave that leads to the tomb of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. The small dark room on top of the cave was the shelter my mother, my three younger sisters, and I took after we escaped the carpet bombing of the old city of Jerusalem in 1948. My Muslim cousin is the custodian of the holy cave, a great honor that his family inherited from a generation to a generation. His father, an illiterate, was able to recite to Christian worshipers the story of Lazarus, in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Greek, and other foreign languages.
Don’t miss the opportunity to drive five miles south to Bethlehem. Feel the ecstasy of entering the most dramatic cave in which the Virgin Mary delivered her beautiful Palestinian baby. During the Second Intifadah, the uprising against Israeli occupation, Muslim and Christian activists, chased by the Israeli death squads, were given refuge in the church.
You may go and see the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, only a thirty minute drive. Beware; don’t plunge into the dirty and polluted waters. The river is almost dry. Its waters were diverted by the Israelis. Five miles west, near Jericho, you will pass by the Mount of Temptation where Jesus fasted for forty days. I can no longer walk up the steep mountain and pay respect to the Greek monks who chose to dedicate their lives to their Lord at their ancient and lonely monastery at the summit.
I do know that Mr. Mandela, who is probably the most respected man on Earth today, is your friend and hero. He is also mine. I met him in Chicago; and I had the honor of visiting him at his home in South Africa, years back. You are also a friend and a great admirer of Cape Town Archbishop Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize dignitary, a man who has stood against injustice and racism almost his entire life. Both men describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the natives of the land, as worse than apartheid. Recently, Israel prevented Bishop Tutu from coming to Gaza to investigate and report Israel’s war crimes to the United Nations.
I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the White Supremacists of South Africa. In fact, South Africa allowed Israel to test its nuclear weapons in the ocean off South Africa. The Israelis were given a blank check: they could test whenever they desired and did not even have to ask permission. Both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs.
Arabs have always supported the dismantling of this racist government. In 1962, African-Arab Sudan granted Mandela a passport to travel with to gain international support in his struggle to free his people. Libya, among other Arab states, provided Mandela and other African liberation movements, political as well as material support. As a result, Libya was designated by the White House as a terrorist rogue state. What a great honor!
A few days ago, Amnesty International’s annual report was released. The report slams Israel’s conduct in the occupied territories. It documents some of the “serious human rights abuses” Israel commits daily. It also spoke of the “war crimes” that Israel had committed in Lebanon.
Arnold Toynbee, the world renowned historian, stated that what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because, as he stated, Jews should have learned from their tragic experience.
Dear Oprah, I do understand the enormous pressure you are subjected to. But I am encouraged by your speech to Howard University graduates. “My integrity is not for sale.… Do not be a slave to any form of selling out”, you remarked.
When you return, may God of the Universe grant you the courage to tell the world of what you actually witnessed. Judging from the terrible attacks and insults former President Jimmy Carter has recently experienced for his book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, I do not claim that the task is easy. However, it would be an unforgivable crime for those who have suffered from slavery and are still suffering from discrimination, to ignore the suffering of others.
With Peace and Love,
(An Arab-American activist, writer, columnist; worked with several African-American groups on civil and human rights issues since the mid sixties; acted as a Middle East advisor to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad the founder of the Nation of Islam, as well as Minister Louis Farrakhan; visited more than 80 countries throughout the world and met with many of their leaders, including Mandela, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Qathafi, Abdallah ibn Abdel-Aziz, Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Khamenei, among many others.)
As for those who say the Jews “stole ‘Palestine'” check this out this video (from a commenter at Sweetness & Light)