As Thanksgiving approaches, we expect to see images of Palestinian-Americans who joyfully celebrate the annual holiday. Posting pictures of elaborate dinner tables full of food: the turkey with the usual side like mash potatoes, yams, canned cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies and stuffing. Then come the images of the happy eaters after they have overindulged.
But Palestinians should not be celebrating Thanksgiving. Our people can relate to the genocide committed against Native Americans who, like Palestinians, coveted their land until it was stolen from them. No group was more familiar with the fertile land in America than its indigenous people, who taught the white European colonists how to successfully harvest it. These colonialists in turn enslaved the Natives, and subsequently brought black slaves from West Africa to further “develop” the land and the country. This process is quite similar to the one where Jewish refugees (at first) came to Arab Palestine from Europe and were taught by indigenous Palestinians how to cultivate the land in the Mediterranean (something European Jews were not accustomed to). Palestinians enthusiastically welcomed Jewish refugees and helped them settle, until Palestinians were ultimately betrayed by the Zionist Movement. This resulted in genocide, with many Palestinian families murdered and led to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes (and for many the forced migration from the region), and eventually the confiscation of Palestinian land which is still occurring today. This entire process in Palestine is a systematic colonisation as it was for the Native Americans.
America wasn’t a “new” world when it was discovered by the Europeans, it was home to over 15 million people with over 600 tribes (numbers vary) who had been living there for thousands of years in the same way that Palestine was not “a land without a people”.
Palestinians have resided in Palestine since the Bronze Age. And nearly half a millennium from the 630s until the Crusader invasion of Palestine, the official Arab Islamic administrative of Jund Filistine existed within the wider geographic region of Al-Sham. Prior to the Jewish migration to Palestine, the region possessed a large and thriving agricultural economy, flourishing schools and theatres, roads, railways and sophisticated sewage systems. Remanence of these can still be seen today with buildings and manhole covers which say ‘Palestine’ on them in the old cities. One doesn’t need to look far to understand and see the numerous examples of modern Palestinian history in the region that have been documented by the occupiers.
Since the colonisation of Palestine, Zionist Jews have insisted that God is an omnipotent real estate broker by claiming that the land of Palestine is theirs simply because they are “the Chosen People”. White European settlers made similar claims in America when they embraced a line from Psalms 2:8: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
Thanksgiving should be a Day of Mourning for the Native Americans, not one of European conquest. It’s one of protest against the arrival of European settlers and centuries of oppression. Early US leaders spearheaded the celebration of the holiday in the same way Israel celebrates its Independence Day on the day of the Nakba (The Catastrophe). If Palestinians expect others to remember their suffering on the Nakba, they must remember the suffering of others who have been met with the same fate.
This 25 November, as on every Thanksgiving, my table will be empty and I will be taking the time to remember the people whose lives were wiped out by colonialism and pray for justice for all.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.