The more I read about the history of the Palestinian people, the more I am reminded of the history of America’s indigenous people since Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. In both cases ethnic cleansing with its accompanying genocide were norms, especially when the indigenous peoples fought back. In both cases the indigenous populations were treated with disrespect, contempt and removal. And in both cases, genocide and ethnic cleansing were denied by the conquerors and their friends. In the public discourse, we’re the good guys, they the villains. As Israeli historian Shlomo Sand says “what history does not wish to relate, it omits,” as if omitting it wipes the slate of history clean. It does not. Eventually, liked or not, truth emerges and has to be faced.
For the Palestinians, many people still believe the old story. Just recently I heard someone say “it’s hard to feel much sympathy for them when they spend so much time killing innocent people.” That’s the approved story, and vested interests would like to keep it that way, but with the advent of the Internet and the vocal voice of Palestinian journalists like Ramzy Baroud, this is rapidly changing. It is way past time that we all hear the Palestinian side of the story of what has happened to them since Israel became a nation in 1948 with the blessing of the UN, the U.S., Britain, France and other European powers. The truth, it is said will make us free when we hear and understand it. It is not always a pleasant experience, nor should it be.
Ramzy Baroud’s book, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter is an important book. It is more than the story of his father, grandfather, their ancestral village of Beit Daras, its obliteration and their flight to Gaza. It is the story of the Palestinian people since 1948 when a well-trained army of 65,000 attacked them, making over 700,000 of them refugees. It is the story of their heroic will to live, to educate themselves, and to provide for their families. It is also the story of constant persecution and agony that culminates in the apocalyptic destruction of Gaza during Israel’s monstrously-named “Operation Cast Lead”.
Ramzy Baroud is a fine writer, his book is well-researched, and the story of his family’s experience one that is easily understood. It doesn’t make for pleasant reading, nor should it. I came away from it with an appetite to learn more. Pick up a copy, read and reread it, quarrel with it, listen, and do more research on your own. That’s what I do.
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