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Guest: Martin Luther King’s dream on Palestine

BY PATRICK HITCHON - GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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Last month as I was driving home from work, I listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963. Though I had grown up thousands of miles away and was a high-school student in Beirut at the time of the march on Washington, D.C., the words are eternal in their eloquence and substance. After listening to it, it became apparent that what applied in 1963 in the United States applies to the current situation in Palestine.

The incarceration, imprisonment, and summary execution of “militant” Palestinians by Israel and the confiscations, demolitions, and the apartheid conditions under which the West Bank Palestinians live each day recall the words of King.

In his speech, he said, “One hundred years later, (after the Emancipation Proclamation) the life of the Negro is sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

This is the life of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. They live incarcerated in ghettos or refugee camps, separated from their families and farms. They are not allowed access to the holy places in Jerusalem. They are not granted permits to build homes and are not granted access to water, while the settlers live a life of plenty in the midst of lush gardens and swimming pools. My relatives have experienced firsthand Israel’s unfair policies toward Palestinians returning home after receiving a higher education and employment overseas.

King went on to say, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwind of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

The Palestinians should desist from violence and terrorism. The barrage of rockets fired upon Israel from the South of Lebanon and Gaza is inexcusable. Likewise, the destruction of Lebanon in 2006 and the bombardment of Gaza by Israel last Christmas are acts of savagery condemned by the U.N. Goldstone Report and the world. Approximately 2,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed in Israel’s strikes. Many survivors are crippled permanently. The Palestinians have gained none of their homes, property, or rights since 1948. More than 4 million of them are refugees, while Israelis occupy their homes, annex their lands, and demolish what still stands.

“I have a dream that one day, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” This is truly a dream that, considering the situation on the ground in Palestine and Israel, will never be achieved. In the company of Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the likes of Abraham Lincoln will never be found.

It is up to the United States and the world to condemn the situation in the West Bank. We are done with the rhetoric. It is time for the United States to divest from Israel. It is time for our policymakers in Iowa and Washington to show objectivity and not be influenced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. We are done talking the talk; we need to all walk the walk, hand in hand, Palestinians and Israelis.

Patrick Hitchon is a UI professor of neurosurgery and bioengineering chief of neurosurgical service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.


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