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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Museum for Palestinian Arab suffering

Rashid Shaheen, in the Arabic edition of Ma'an, calls on turning the Arafat shrine in Ramallah into a "Yad Vashem" of Palestinian Arab suffering, for visiting dignitaries.

This is a great idea.

A museum showing a good, accurate history of how Arabs migrated en masse to Palestine in reaction to the economic boom from Zionism starting in the late 1800s; how they benefited from the Jews and raised their standards of living compared to all Arab countries, and then how their leaders started using them as fodder for political purposes and started what is now some eighty-odd years of suffering at the hands of their Arab "brethren" would be a good start, and a story that needs to be told.

The deadly fighting between the Husseinis and Nashashibis in the 1930s, and how the hundreds of deaths that resulted are now referred to fondly as a "Great Revolt," would be able to teach generations of Palestinian Arab children about how the current infighting has a long history behind it.

A section showing how Israel didn't allow UNRWA to build any refugee camps in Israeli territory, explaining how treating its Arab citizens in such a way was an insult and insisting on building them real homes in real towns and living in dignity, and comparing them with how they were treated in Arab countries, would be instructive.

Another section can describe how no Arab countries save Jordan will allow Palestinian Arabs to become citizens, even though they can become citizens of Western countries. An entire wing can cover Lebanese discrimination, and another on how Egypt treated Gaza from 1948-67. Statistics showing Palestinian Arab mortality rates and life expectancy before and after Israel controlled the territories could be a highlight.

There are countless other examples of Palestinian Arab suffering that need to be told, and a museum in Ramallah associated with the tomb of one of the biggest sources of their suffering would be quite appropriate.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is what the writer had in mind.