Editor’s note: The following is an edited version of an essay that was originally published on Maha Bali’s blog.
I wrote this post because I realized that it was time my 9-year-old learned about Palestine. And that somehow, somehow, our children in Egypt have learned about the Holocaust in Year 4 of the British curriculum and not about Palestine in the Arabic or the British curriculum. They didn’t learn about the importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in religion. About any of the history, of Palestine or of Egypt’s relationship with Palestine and Israel. I needed to do something about that!
I had recently spent some time trying to explain Palestine to people from Australia to South Africa to the United States who meant well but understood very little about the Palestinian situation. And then my husband and I discussed whether it was time to discuss it with our daughter, but the responsibility ultimately fell to me. It is difficult to know how to start and how far to go, whether to include England’s role or just focus on the relationship between Israel and Palestine, and whether to clarify why Palestine matters to us as Muslims and Egyptians or not.
I kind of did all of that, but the main gist of the abstract concept was this:
Palestine is like a family who have been living in a home for generations, but then some other group of people (Zionists) came over and took their homes, claiming their great-grandparents used to live there, then they told them they could basically live in the basement or a small bathroom. Not only that, but Palestinians could not move out of that basement without permission, and the Israeli Zionists controlled when and how the Palestinians could get food and water. They also occasionally banged loudly on their doors or threatened them with violence. They occasionally threw bombs and killed some of them. The Palestinians sometimes tried to get out, but risked their lives each time. Sometimes they threw stones out of anger, but they had few real weapons to defend or attack. If they ever managed to get out, all the way out the front door, they might never be able to get back in again—definitely not without permission from the new owner.
That’s basically the very abstract idea. Missing lots of nuance, of course.