On May 27, 1942, a Nazi leader’s car was attacked by the resistance. Within a month, the Nazis had tracked the attackers to a Czech village called Lidice and had expelled or massacred most of its residents, men, women and children. Today, Lidice is remembered every June in ceremonies and memorials in several cities around the world.
That made me wonder about the more than 400 villages that were destroyed by Israel in 1948 in its effort to purge non-Jews from the territories it had captured. What has been done to memorialize them or to remember their destruction?
In 1978 during the dawn of the computer era, I began writing a computer software program called “Baladi: The Palestine Database” which sought to compile facts about Palestine’s history that the owner of the software could expand. I released it publicly in 1985.
It actually consisted of several databases including one that listed chronologically by year, month and day events in Palestine’s history; a travel feature that allowed you to walk 15 of the most scenic routes of pre-Nakba Palestine, and several others that included maps and more. The databases were expandable and information could be inputed by the user.
One of the databases in Baladi was a listing of every Palestinian city, town and village that existed, including the complete list of those Israel had destroyed during its creation in 1947 and 1948. What I learned was that many of the largest Palestinian cities and towns had been attacked by Israel long before the so-called “Arab invasion” that followed Israel’s formal declaration of statehood on May 14, 1948 – giving the lie to the Israeli assertion that the Arabs started the war when they invaded in 1948.
No, the Israelis started the war in 1946, using terrorism, hostage taking, suicide bombings and the murder of civilians, such as the massacre of Deir Yassin. Many of those villages and cities that were attacked and destroyed were located in the area of the UN Partition Plan that had been designated to be a part of the “Arab state.” I continue to update the database online at www.PassportPalestine.com.
But as I read about the efforts to commemorate Lidice, I wondered about the more than 400 Lidice’s that were destroyed by Israel and what efforts were being made to memorialize them. What was being done to remember them?
There are several campaigns to commemorate the vicious massacre by ultra-terrorists Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, two of Israel’s prime ministers, of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, an attack that sparked the refugee flight.
And what about memorializing the cities, towns and villages that have survived Israel’s vicious oppression over the years? What are we doing to support them?
One of the problems of the Palestinian challenge has been the slow process of documenting our history. There are many websites that promote anger and hate against Israel, and certainly Israel, as a government and military deserves much criticism. In fact, charges should be brought against Israel in the International Criminal Court for its violence and terrorism.
But the story of Palestine is a story of beauty. It is a story of people and families and achievements. We should be documenting our history in more detail, not just as statistics but as a people. Who are some of the people who were murdered by the terrorist Haganah and Irgun organizations?
We should have their pictures and biographies available so that years from now, others will know what Israel did to a people who lived in a country called Palestine.
One of my friends, activist and businessman Sam Bahour who now lives in Palestine, is helping a project called the Theatrical Museum of Palestinian Oral History. It sounds like a great project, but of course, every project needs funds.
And for some reason, we Arabs have a problem with funding. We can get some funding, but not enough. Funding is always a problem. The Arab world is one of the wealthiest regions in the world. Arabs are among the wealthiest in the world. A recent study noted that the Middle East has 157 billionaires, or 40 percent of the world’s billionaires. That’s compared to the 28 percent who live in Europe, 22 percent who live in North America (the United States mainly) and 18 percent who live in Asia.
Yet, Israel’s distorted message that twists history, denies Palestinian rights and demonizes Arabs has far more financial support. Pro-Israeli groups spend far more on public relations and press releases, on the underwriting of movies and television shows, and even on the ownership and advertising support of newspapers and mainstream news media.
They have their own museums to commemorate the Holocaust and Jewish history, and so much more. Yet, when it comes to Arab history and especially Palestinian history, there is so little. And what little exists does so on meager budgets.
In a world where perception is reality, what you do has an impact on how people view your causes. If they see that you yell and scream a lot but rarely invest your own money in something, maybe that something isn’t worth their support either.
Could our failure as Arabs to put our money where our mouths and emotions are be a part of the reason why the public so easily brushes aside our rights and claims to justice, and instead embraces the hateful anti-Arab images promoted by Israel and other groups with political agendas?
If our own people can’t step up to the plate to invest in the history of our Arab culture, or of Palestine, then what kind of history do we really have?
– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheArabDailyNews.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
Ray Hanania is the Managing Writer of the Arab Daily News online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also writes for Al Jazeera English. Hanania has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.