An open letter to Jews worldwide from a Palestinian Arab

A Palestinian elderly woman screaming in despair, complaining to God, as an Israeli army bulldozer prepares her land for the construction of the Apartheid wall in the village of Dair Qidees, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 4, 2004

Look at me. Look at me as I am — a fellow human being. Look at me independently from your Jewish identity and your Jewish suffering.

Are you offended? Does your worldview need wrenching out of a life-long schooling in a painful collective memory? Does it need, as a Jewish friend explained, an “internal revolution” to coax you out into a full awareness of my suffering, utterly independent of a Jewish perspective?

Am I not allowed to mention my suffering until I mention yours first?

What must I do to make you look at me? I have plastered my family’s history of ethnic cleansing all over the Internet — pictures of my great grandfather sitting on the veranda of his house in Lifta, al-Quds (Jerusalem), juxtaposed against the Jews who now live there. I caught them on film, hastily emerging from a religious meeting in the garden behind the house where he is buried, self-absorbed with not even a glance in my direction.

Like the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s poem, I have cornered people to tell my story, shouted from the rooftops, exposed the horrors of Jewish supremacy in Palestine; all those children — yes, Palestinian Arab children. I have assaulted your eyes and ears with graphic pictures and soundtracks. I have humanized Palestinian Arabs for you.

But my voice, hoarse now after decades of shouting, has failed to reach you — yes, you. You, the Jew who believes my Palestinian heritage (Arab and all that came before that) is not mine, but yours — a French Jew, a Brazilian Jew, an American Jew — wherever you may be and however you identify as a Jew with the “right” to steal from me and abuse me.

You, the Jew who is complicit, who says, “yes, but”, who says nothing, who is blind to my reality. Stand with me against the stain of the Zionist Jewish state in Palestine.

As a people, we Palestinians are remarkable for our long and uncompromising stand in the face of injustice and oppression, especially in the light of what our enemy planned for us — total despair, as David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister put it: “For only after total despair on the part of the [Palestinian] Arabs, despair that will come not only from the failure of disturbances and the attempt at rebellion, but also as a consequence of our growth in the country, may the Arabs possibly acquiesce in a Jewish Eretz Israel.”

Stand with me; we need your help against those who continue to inflict an abomination on us in your name.


Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

Palestinian and righteously angry

Palestinian and righteously angry