A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|03/26/02 at 10:09:30|
|As-salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullah - |
I found these journals extremely moving, insha'Allah I'll post some of the earlier ones. This is one of the most recent.
Report from Ground Zero
By Samah Jabr With Betsy Mayfield
Breathing a sigh of relief, and knowing that I had two whole days of “weekend” to spend at home, I left the hospital in a rush to get to my mother’s kitchen in Dahiat Al-Barid, where I knew strong Arabic coffee would be prepared as soon as I entered the house.
In the hospital, there has developed a kind of ongoing, droning discussion about what Israelis have done and are doing. The talk goes on and on, and the taxi driver taking me home made me feel that the voices of dissent had simply moved without a break from operating room to vehicle. The taxi’s radio was tuned to our “local” Israeli station, where the Israeli newsman was chattering on and on about the armed ship Israeli commandos had captured in the Red Sea. That the ship was taken illegally while still in Sudan/Saudi waters was a point of pride.
Unlike the hush-hush non-reporting of the Israel commando raids against the USS Liberty in June 1967, as the Six-Day war was drawing to a close, save for Israel’s sneak attack on the Golan Heights, today’s announcer had no compunction whatsoever in asserting his views about what had happened. Indeed, he spoke as if he, himself, had been on board. “We got them before they even came near Israel,” the voice proudly intoned. “That this ship was taken is ‘proof’ that Mr. Arafat, the only possible person responsible, doesn’t want peace. All Palestinians everywhere want to execute all Jews everywhere and annihilate the land of Israel. We must fight on.”
The taxi driver switched the dial to Palestinian news, The Voice of Palestine. Our news carried full coverage of the visit of American envoy Anthony Zinni and his efforts to bring peace to our land, and included the story of three Palestinian boys, Muhammad Labad, 15, Muhammad Al Madhoun, 15, and Ahmed Banat, 16, all murdered by Israeli troops. The news account explained that Israeli soldiers had killed the youths because it was assumed that they were on their way to do damage at the Ailey Sinai Israeli settlement in Gaza and had to be stopped.
“Ah,” I said with as much aloofness as I could muster, “Israelis have all the answers. Arafat put a boat of explosives in the Red Sea; any and all young men from a Gazan camp are out to do evil. All this from the democratic state of Israel. Whatever happened to the idea of having trials and no one is assumed guilty until proven so?”
The radio report continued. It seems that it took international intervention to retrieve the boys’ bodies four days after they were killed. The soldiers had reported that “we ‘thought’ we ‘may’ have killed three armed Palestinians who were on their way to Ailey Sinai.” When doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital examined the bodies, however, they discovered that the boys had been tortured, stabbed and burned. Their limbs and skulls were fractured and two of them had been shot, before a missile had been fired to rip them to shreds, along with all evidence of what really had happened.
Thoughts of a relaxed, pleasant weekend began to drain from me. I was glad to get out of the taxi and, in merciful silence, cross the Al-Ram Checkpoint that separates Jerusalem’s C-Zone from its B-Zone—Oslo’s infamous classification of who is in and who is out of the city. I began the walk through the newly installed metal barrier, a long and narrow tunnel-like impediment that tears at the heart of anyone passing through. I was just a few meters from the end of the tunnel when I began to catch up with a tall, well-built Palestinian laborer. He appeared to be a painter, because his hair was dusty and speckled with “unhairlike colors.” Except for henna, our ancient dye, few Palestinians color their hair, and it would be quite unusual for our young people to go out deliberately looking as hip or funky as this man did. In his hand, he carried his Arab headgear, his keffiyeh tied neatly, as a sort of lunch box. Most of our laborers use their keffiyehs as bundles. It’s a sight one sees every day at every checkpoint. The young man I was fast approaching wore a tight muscle-shirt that showed off his huskiness. Even though his jeans were as patched with paint flecks and remnants of plaster dust as his hair, he displayed a quiet dignity that made me proud. “If only Hollywood could see this hunk,” I thought, a little irreverently.
As the man and I reached the checkpoint at the end of the tunnel, a soldier stepped out and put his gun barrel against the man’s chest. With great calm and pride, the man simply gripped the gun barrel and moved it away from his chest. Seeing this, I was even more proud of this man because he reacted strongly, but with extreme gentleness. His was a beautiful human response.
Immediately, however, three more soldiers jumped from their jeep, took hold of the man and pushed him against a nearby cement wall, gabbed his bundled keffiyeh and tossed it behind them. Neither the soldiers nor the man spoke, but the soldiers began to beat their victim of the morning. I and others who had come through the tunnel were ignored, but we dared not move. The soldiers pounded the painter’s head against the wall over and over and kicked his abdomen and groin with their large boots. They struck his chest with their gun butts. I knew that the beating was breaking the man’s ribs.
Crippled With Fear
Those of us watching were crippled with fear and anger. We could see how helpless we were, given that we were among not only four violent soldiers, but a fully armed unit of Israeli military watching in amusement from the other side of the street. Finally, two middle-aged women tried to stop the soldiers, but were shoved down into the mud of the street. The soldiers continued to beat the man until he collapsed and fell on the ground, his mouth and head bleeding. He did not move.
As if washing their hands of the victim and the rest of us, the soldiers didn’t trouble themselves to check anyone else. I wanted to step forward and ask if I could call for an ambulance, but the soldiers started shooting in the air and waving us away. As I and the others trudged off, I looked back at the fallen man, his once food-filled keffiyeh lying beside him as bloody as he. The contents of the bundle, oranges and a bag of bread, were scattered nearby. Stomping around on the oranges and bread as if they were mere stones, the four soldiers who had beaten the young man appeared oblivious to what they had just done.
That was on Jan. 4, a few days after the New Year. As I entered my mother’s kitchen, the only thing I could feel was a sickening sensation brought on by the smell of food. An image of the provision lying around the destroyed body of another proud young Palestinian man replaced any hope I might have had of a pleasant weekend at home.
That was on Jan. 4, 2002.
Samah Jabr is a medical intern in her native city of Jerusalem. Betsy Mayfield is a writer living in Ames, Iowa.
|03/26/02 at 12:12:41|
|On Living and Letting Live|
|03/26/02 at 12:10:42|
|On Living and Letting Live|
By Samah Jabr with Betsy Mayfield
Because of the conflict in Palestine, my family and I, living within the area Israelis deem Jerusalem or Jerusalem’s environs, are under imposed siege. Since the Al-Aqsa intifada began, we cannot leave the house at night and sometimes we cannot go out in the day, either. Even if one of us becomes violently ill, we cannot go out to summon a physician or go to a hospital. If we need milk from the store, too bad. It will have to wait. Jerusalem is as silent at night as the famous Christmas carol, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Only, in our case, the holy part is somehow missing.
One evening about two weeks ago, everyone in my family was immersed in work: Dad and my sister were reading, Mother and my brother were fussing about in the kitchen and I was editing material I wanted to submit for publication. Suddenly, we heard a cry from outside. It was one of our neighbors calling out like a Palestinian Paul Revere, America’s famous night rider who warned that “the British are coming.” “Settlers in Dahiat Al Bareed. Citizens be careful,” our neighbor shouted out in Arabic.
Settlers are as varied as people anywhere, but as academic Bruce Lawrence writes in his book Defenders of God, most settlers living illegally on Palestinian land believe that it is their religious task to reunite the Holy Land with themselves, God’s Chosen People. Others, the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, believe that they must take back the Temple Mount, reconstruct the Jewish Temple—never mind that the Dome of the Rock stands there now—and get all of God’s Chosen People to settle in Israel before redemption of the righteous can occur. The Holy Land, say these people, belongs to God, and they, the Jewish settlers, have simply come to claim what God has ordained. Neve Yaqoub is the settlement of God’s People nearest our home.
The night of the attack was dark and shadowless, but we peered from our windows into the night, trying to see. We could only hear shouting and shooting. Mom came from the kitchen and, with a calming power worthy of God’s appreciation, commanded us to “get away from the windows.” We dared not disobey. Instead of watching, we hustled around turning off our lights.
From the nearby mosque, we heard a voice on the loud speaker. It was not the usual call to prayer that we are accustomed to hearing five times a day. This Palestinian Arabic speaker told us to gather stones and glass for defense and to stay in our homes with the lights out.
Outside our compound, we heard the rustle of kids gathering stones. A positive in this horror is that the kids actually cleaned up the area. Here in Jerusalem, where some municipal services are limited to the western part of the city, it is our custom to gather stones that clutter our byways in East Jerusalem and cart them away. Families have been after their boys for months to do this, but asking our kids to clean up the streets is like asking American kids to take out the garbage. Now, our teenagers rise to the task. It is exciting: there is danger, but, with typical adolescent aplomb, the youth of our village cannot imagine that anything really bad will happen to them.
In spite of Mom’s concerns, we sneaked to our windows to see what was going on. An elderly neighbor, supposedly ill and unable ever to leave her room, was outside gathering stones with the kids. We nudged each other and chuckled at the sight. Mom did not think it was funny.
But our amusement quickly subsided as the shouts and gunfire got closer and closer. One of my father’s academic colleagues from An-Najah University in Nablus had been killed a few days earlier in a settler attack near Bida. We had all seen the televised report of the killing of two-year-old Sara in the current uprising in Salfeet, not far from our neighborhood. My grandfather’s olive orchard in Kifel-Hared, just up the road, was ransacked by Jewish settlers during this current Israeli-initiated conflict, and many of our trees were burned to the ground.
Settlers never come in the day. Like the fox to a barnyard, they sneak in at night. They come fully armed, and often with Israeli soldiers. The noise we make sometimes seems our only defense.
While it is rare for them actually to kill one of us, they have a habit of destroying property and terrorizing our children. Even without Israeli-imposed curfews, few Arab people leave their homes at night. People stop work around 3 or 4 p.m. in order to be home and in the house by dark. Palestinian towns like Hebron, Nazareth, Salfeet, Birzeit, Sufat and Beit Hanina are like ghost towns after 6 p.m. It is unheard of to have any kind of party at night. Social life in most of Palestine is virtually nonexistent.
I didn’t fully realize that until I went to America and Britain and experienced after-work relaxation. Away from Palestine, I could stop at the gym and exercise after a day in the lab. I went to TGIF—“thank-God-it’s-Friday”—parties. I attended a “shower,” as Americans call it, for a friend having a baby. All these events occurred at night in a relaxed atmosphere I had never experienced.
Here at home, I unwind over a good dinner cooked by my brother, but there I could extend my life into the community and get to know people beyond my immediate family. Here, we all fear the night—no more so than now. Forty-year-old Issam Joudeh was kidnapped just a night or so ago from his home near Ramallah, a town about 15 miles north of Jerusalem. Severely beaten, he was then set on fire and, finally, when his agony ended and he lay still, the settler-gang riddled him with bullets, an act of pure hatred. This by men who claim to be God’s righteous and chosen people.
During the settlers’ attack on us, my father was the most distressed. Pacing, he finally took some analgesics and anti-hypertensive medication. Even my easy-going brother looked pale. To ease the tension, my sister and I began to chide him. “Go hide in the closet,” teased my sister.
“No, no,” I corrected. “You’re too big for the closet. Get under the bed.”
Mother was effective. She sat with my niece and nephew and read them a story by candlelight. Until the shouts came very close to our home, the children did not know what was going on. We do not want them to be aware of the oppression leveled against us. Like the Jewish character in the recent movie, “Life is Beautiful,” we try to shield our children from the realities of hate.
As the shooting and shouting came closer to our house, the street lights went out. In the dark, we sat on the floor for about four hours. Some of the British I had met during my medical rotation in London had told me about their air raids during WWII and how afraid they had been. Now, I could apply their recollections to my own situation.
Finally, we heard one of our Christian neighbors calling out. “Help!” he yelled. “The settlers are in the mosque with their fire.” Then, he began to chant our Islamic prayer, “Allahu Akbar,”—God is great.
That our neighbor and friend had gone out on his roof gave us courage and we, like many in our crowded neighborhood, went to our door. Our friend’s chant resounded and people up and down the road began to recite with him, “Allahu Akbar.” As our chanting rose into the night, the settlers, leaving the mosque behind, began shooting in our direction. Some of the boys threw stones into the night, but most of us went back inside when we thought our place of worship was safe.
Around 1 a.m., as suddenly as it started, the shooting and shouting stopped. Had our chanting and stone-throwing frightened the settlers, or was it finally their bedtime? Did they imagine that it was 1948 and that we Palestinians would flee in fear and horror as many of our people did then? Did they imagine that they were still fighting the Germans and that they had to use violence to stop their perception that we might rise against them, they with their guns and army?
We went out into the streets to make sure no one was hurt. A call from the mosque’s loud speaker reassured us that this attack was over. We went to bed wondering when the next outrage would occur. Such is peace among God’s people in Palestine.
Samah Jabr is a medical student and journalist writing from her home in Jerusalem; Betsy Mayfield is an American writer and supporter of truth and justice. This article was first published in i.Views.com.
|Alone in Their Cage|
|03/26/02 at 12:12:20|
|Alone in Their Cage, Palestinians Suffer The Illness of Despair.|
First published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
I'm tired, not a new state of affairs for me. I haven't slept enough since I started medical school more than seven years ago. I've eaten in a rush for as long as I can remember. Even now that I've graduated and begun my internship I'm never finished with work. All this is pretty normal for young doctors everywhere. It's more than being tired, however, that racks me with exhaustion and discouragement, now. Ever since the early December suicide bombs went off, I simply cope without enthusiasm, seemingly sapped of energy or inner strength.
Were it not for having to cover at Makassed Hospital for colleagues who cannot get to work because of curfews and closures, I can't imagine what dullness would cloud my spirit. I was on call four nights last week taking care of the sick or injured arrivals. That it takes me three hours to get to Makassed on the Mount of Olives, less than five miles from my home in Dahiart-Al-Barid, causes a frown to surface on my brow. Even this horrendous affront, however, does not seem to be the source of the pain that lulls me into hopelessness. Thinking about why I am more disheartened now than I have been all these years, I decide it must be my realization that we Palestinians are, finally, alone in a cage.
To provide comfort in the only way I know, I place my hand on the head of the hospitalized and heartsick-unto-death mother of one of the latest to use his body as a weapon against our hopelessness. As I do, I hear a radio down the hall announcing the world's reactions to this one young man's attack. The White House reassures Israel that America remains as staunchly supportive as ever. The British express their sympathy-for Israel. In Rome, the pope announces, through prayer, that the church is in "solidarity with Israel's victims and their families." Newspapers around the world ask, "What kind of mother does a Palestinian bomber have?"
I feel the sting of disregard. I continue to try to get the dead bomber's mother to open her eyes, to remain alive. Where are the reports of her story and mine? Where is the mayor of a major U.S. city-a national hero in his country-visiting our injured and receiving international coverage for his trouble? Where is the pope's sympathy for all people, even us - for we are, after all, flesh and blood, too? Where is the press when I stand helplessly looking at the influx of patients arriving in the Makassed Hospital emergency room? Our people are not brought here only because they have been struck by bullets or whipped by guns. They are suffering from the terminal illness of despair.
Some, it seems, dismiss our pain as the necessary result of modernization, the onward rush of civilization that intends to finally make the whole world one. I've heard it said that we, we Palestinians, simply happen to be in the way. We are a problem because we exist. How despicable of us to dare defy the world, using terrorism against people who chose Ariel Sharon, a war criminal, as their leader. While a few American bishops ask for mercy and a few moral leaders defy the slur of anti-Semitism to recognize our humanity, most of the world rejects us for what we have become during the past half-century of occupation, humiliation, death, destruction, injustice. We are left alone, caged, living lives which "civilized nations" suggest we might escape were we to resist passively or, in a kind of Zionist wishful thinking, just shrivel up and die.
Fighting back is not to be our right, regardless of the battering we take, day after day after day.
But whether we stand and take our punishment for merely being where we are or fight back passively or violently, it doesn't matter. We remain caged, a final tribute to Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky, who in his Revisionist Zionist writings of 1923 suggested chasing us away, killing us or caging us.
Journalists decry the dangers young Israelis face when they want to go out for ice cream or to celebrate a birthday. No one points out that most of these young people are here because of an earlier generation's violent Zionist ambitions. If they are harmed, I agree, it's not their fault and it's a genuine horror for us all. But there are no stories about our young people, whose ancestors have lived here for century after century. Israeli curfews force them home and inside a locked metal door by 3 p.m.-forget about ice cream or parties of any kind. How many people know about the land mines that kill our children when they try to go to school? How many people read the tales of children shot in the back, because they're still outside the family complex when the curfew begins?
How many people know how we have to sneak around simply to pick an orange off a tree?
I continue to look after the latest bomber's mother, lying in our cardiac care unit. She is in respiratory distress. Her face is a mask, washed blank by tears she can no longer shed. She is uncooperative, refusing to speak. She is the mother of Nabil Halabeieh, the young man from Abu Dis who blew himself up over the weekend, I am told quietly, pulled away by nurses who think we should leave her alone.
Early in the afternoon, I receive a phone call. Sixty students from Al-Quds University, my alma mater, have been arrested as suspected collaborators in Nabil Halabeieh's action. I don't know what to think.
Outside it is raining heavily. I can go home now.
At the Al-Ram checkpoint, cars are lined up as far as I can see. Israeli soldiers bark at people to get out of their cars and to stand in the rain against a wall, like prisoners about to be shot. Some are waved through, but not before a soldier batters their cars with gun butts. I do not have a car, and so I stand dripping in the rain.
It seems like hours. It is growing dark. I hear the call for prayer announcing the breaking of the Ramadan fast. I think of my family waiting for me so they can start their meal with a juicy date. I decide to call them to say I'll be late. Seeing me take my mobile phone from my coat pocket, a soldier rushes over and grabs if from me and starts yelling in Hebrew. I am in a cage. I am numb.
This is the cage from which our suicide bombers come. Is this how they feel when they decide to kill themselves as a protest against those who will not recognize their humanity?
Few people will submit to death when there is hope for something better. I'm one of the lucky ones: I have my work, which leaves me without the energy to resist so dramatically. But I am only one in the cage that is all that's left of Palestine.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|03/28/02 at 06:05:04|
Samah Jabr is a very good friend of mine! Yes, Sofia, ALL her writing is extremely moving. The following is her most recent article...I will post some more when I can.
Women with much to say
By Samah Jabr
The Palestine Times/ London
From the land where women give birth at military checkpoints and die with their newborns because of the lack of medical treatment, I write my words. I write to convey the cries of the millions who are denied the basic requirements for human survival, including the freedom to reach the nearest hospitals because of the tight siege Israel is imposing on our towns and villages and throats.
From occupied Palestine where remarkable women challenge Israeli bulldozers with their bodies and souls, I send the call of a proud Palestinian woman to others all over the world to stand up for injustice. From this land of conflict, where the morning breeze brings nothing to our suffocating souls but the smell of death and fear, I express my full respect and admiration for the courageous mothers who have lost their loved ones to war, but still continue their struggle for a just and comprehensive peace that will spare others their very personal pain.
This is the season of women. In March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day and, in many cultures, Mother’s Day as well. On this occasion, I call upon women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, to come together and to be a loud and sound voice for humanity, equality, justice, peace and liberty for all people around the globe, including the people of Occupied Palestine. It does not take super women to do that; even ordinary women can be markers of history. Women, who are often exposed to prejudice, appreciate more than anyone else the value of justice, and they are willing to take anything in their stride. Who is more capable of doing that than a woman who gives birth to a new life, creates a home for the homeless, deprives herself to make sure everyone else is well taken care of, a woman who shares with others their agony to split it into pieces and passes on her mercy to soothe the broken hearts?
My world revolves around what others think of me, or so I think. I am not alone. How many of us can brave the expressed or implied opinions of others as we try to stand up bravely in today’s world? Discrimination hurts. Prejudice, even if it is our own, imprisons, stings, bites the hand that feeds it and makes us oblivious to the three fingers pointed back at us when we condemn something or someone different from ourselves. Fear, paranoia and traumatic stress syndromes are terms we hear in medical school. Discrimination is oppression’s tool, the primitive hammer of civilization that keeps hitting us all on the head, one way or another. What is the cure?
My shy, studious London roommate Lina ran away. She did this without a word to anyone, leaving us frantic with fear that she had been abducted, raped or tortured. We still do not know which is true. Was it fear that made her leave? Or the prejudices of home following her to London where we went to do a medical rotation? Was it post-traumatic stress that finally caught up with her? Or was she simply selfish or willful, knowing that her friends and family would worry, their lives disrupted by her decision to disappear? Is that my own prejudice against Lina, arrived at because I do not know the answers and I was hurt by the reality of her actions?
I am full of fight, my American friends say, full of anger. I cannot let go of the experiences of discrimination I’ve felt. Some people ask my American friend, Betsy, “Why is Samah so angry?” These people did not grow up in Occupied Palestine. They sit in tollbooth lines, but never have to identify themselves at a checkpoint or be stripped at borders. They make sure their children are careful when crossing the street to catch their yellow school buses, but they do not have to worry about sending children to school in vans that might come under gun-fire when paranoid checkpoint guards determine that an “undesirable” might be inside. They wait in line to get a driver’s license or check out at the market, but they do not wait from dawn to dark at one of Israel’s registration offices to make sure a child, a death or a trip abroad is registered as required. They have not lost their homes to demolition nor have they experienced group punishment for the crime of a single person. When Americans leave their country for business, school or pleasure, they know that their citizenship will not be denied them when they return home. I always leave afraid that I will be stopped at the border and denied my identity, even though I was born in Jerusalem.
America is a nation made up of cooperative people who have all come from somewhere else. The mix of people does not dispel prejudice or discrimination, though. A black American man alone in a car at night may very well be in as much danger as a Palestinian man alone in his car at night. Because Betsy writes in support of a Palestinian point-of-view, she is called anti-Semitic. It seems she writes positively about the wrong Semitic people.
Even in Israel—the only democracy in the Middle East, as perceived by the West—women who stand up for injustice and protest against the vicious actions of their government that lead to the loss of their loved ones are exposed to prejudice and rejection like the rest of us. I’m told that the widows of Israeli soldiers who sign letters urging Mr. Sharon to end the occupation of Palestine, and the women who go dressed in black calling on their government to stop their aggression against other human beings are being sworn at and spit upon in public by other Israeli “nationalists.”
I return to Lina. Now that I am “safely” home in Jerusalem, I dream about the experience of losing my friend: the talks with police, the night fears that arose from my imagination, the getting up each day to still not find her in the bed next to mine, the dread of facing her aching family. Then, I remember Miss Susan Taylor, a barrister-lawyer. She is a model for escaping prejudice. You see, Susan Taylor speaks perfect British English, but her real name is Sawsan El-Khayyat. She is Palestinian. On the phone, who would know? Who would ever think that Susan is really Sawsan? I met Sawsan during interrogations about Lina. One call to the police from Susan and my roommate’s case moved from suspected missing person status to criminal investigation. Later, Susan/Sawsan came to our London flat. She saw how distraught I was and so she invited me to come and stay with her. I asked her about the name change.
“Come on, Samah,” she said. “Don’t you know how hard it would be for me to succeed as a British barrister with a name like Sawsan El-Khayyat? All I’ve done is fit in here. After all, Sawsan is translated Susan and Khayyat means the same as Taylor.”
“Have you really experienced prejudice in London?” I asked, knowing that Sawsan is now a British citizen.
“Yes,” Sawsan said, and that was all.
I live in the belly-of-the beast, the “Western colony” of the Middle East, where I am viewed from far and near as angry, a fearful, worrisome woman with too much to say and too much willingness to say it. After a day of feeling prejudice and discrimination, I sometimes come home feeling that maybe I am affected by post-traumatic syndrome. I long for a world of acceptance and objectivity. I long for a place where Sawsan doesn’t have to hide who she really is under a name that doesn’t fit her. True to my conscience, I am determined to display who I am. But would I continue to do that if it meant that I would be unable to have a job—a job that would put food on my family’s table? My arguments are always questions: Where? When? If? How?
Lina is gone, perhaps, I speculate, because she feared discrimination against the way she wants to live her life. Did Lina fear oppression from her own people? Sawsan hides under an assumed name. She fears oppression from those who carry with them hatred arising from their own oppression, forever unable to free themselves of the urge to do unto others what was done unto them. Betsy laments the harmless name-calling she receives, because she chooses to speak in favour of a currently unpopular people, who only want their own place, their own recognition, their own peace. Betsy is frank and doesn’t try to speak truth without pointing straight at it. Does this make her an oppressor, an anti-Semite?
For Lina, prejudice against the lifestyle she wants led to her disruptive, tempestuous disappearance. For Sawsan, prejudice led to falsifying who she really is. For Betsy, prejudice is just a wrinkle in life. As for me, I rest my head, grateful for strong women who do what they must to uphold their own truths. Dare I hope that one day, as our world connects, Palestinian women will not have to deliver at military checkpoints or roadblocks and we will not have to fear each other?
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|03/28/02 at 12:39:47|
|As-salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullah |
Wowo, small world. :)
If you're ever in touch with her, tell her she has a fan!
May Allah (swt) protect all the oppressed and keep us steadfast in this deen, aameen.
|The Second Intifada: A Palestinian Perspective|
|04/08/02 at 08:53:46|
|The Second Intifada: A Palestinian Perspective |
By Samah Jabr
During the horror that faces us daily on the West Bank, these are some of the interviews heard on television. Said one Israeli settler when asked how he felt about the death of 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Durra, a Palestinian boy in Gaza. "Our kids are the kids of God; theirs are the kids of Satan." "They [Palestinians] are not humans...they are animals," said another Jewish settler reflecting on Muhammad Al-Durra's death in a "motherly" passion. "In a way, those Palestinians aren't even animals. Animals care for their offspring. Palestinians send their children out to kill or be killed." Evidently, she did not know that Muhammad's father had come to usher him away from violence and to take him as far away from war as possible. It was Israeli soldiers who turned their guns toward the man and boy, neither of which had stones or any weapon at all. Perhaps, this settler had not heard that ambulance driver who came to help the injured was killed too. These medics did not have stones to throw, but they all had mothers just like Israeli soldiers and every man, woman or child killed in this endless catastrophe of ours. "Palestinians are fatalists. They are poor and have too many children. They lack democracy and peace education. They are willing to send their children out to riot just to get international attention and pressure the government of Israel. It is sad that they get killed, but this is what it takes to stop violence against Israelis," said a more moderate, so-called secular Jewish Israeli on television.
Can you imagine how most Jewish people in New York City would react if anyone publicly or even privately said such things about them? Even non-Jews in the U.S. who welcome those of Jewish faith, but do not agree with Zionist principles are harshly labeled anti-Semitic. Should a non- Jewish American dare speak out against the behavior of Israeli Jews, Jewish rebuttal is swift and harsh. Jobs can be lost, positions in a community degraded, political careers demolished-all for a suggestion, a word, or a story that implies a negative about an Israeli or the State of Israel. So, most Americans look away and choose not to see how Israel treats the Palestinians. Most Americans know little about the Muslim faith anyway. It's easier to dismiss the Arabs than to search out the truth and possibly face Jewish reaction. Many Americans do not even know that there are Christian Arabs or that 'Jihad' more often than not means struggle within oneself and that both Jews and Arabs are Semitic peoples. It should be stated clearly that as Palestinians, we do not send our children out to die. Like every parent around the world, Palestinians want the best life for their children.
I was a child during the years of Intifada, 1987 to 1994. I remember how romantic the idea of running along throwing stone seemed to me then. When I'd see my friends getting together to demonstrate, I'd have a spontaneous rush of desire to join in the "fun." Kids everywhere think they are immortal. At that time, so did we Palestinian kids. None of us could quite believe that anything would happen to us. But, our parents knew. My parents used everything they could think of to keep me and the other youngsters in our family inside. They kept us busy studying and doing chores so that we couldn't go out to throw stones.
Sometimes things get out of a parent's control. The majority of the children raised in Gaza or the West Bank after 1948 were denied a decent life by the Israelis. Many were brought up in poverty with no hope of better opportunities ahead. Most of our "camp" children's fathers hung their heads and trudged off to work for substandard wages paid by the Israelis. These same Israelis made it impossible for the Palestinians to develop their own professional careers that might have bolstered the Palestinian economy along with that of Israel. They kept the Palestinians, even those within Israel, in severe poverty. They took our water so we could not plant; they closed our schools, so we could not learn. They made our people slaves and second-class citizens.
The boys of the Intifada saw their parents' humiliation and they became rebellious.
They began to feel that if they had to live as their parents lived, they'd rather die. The fight against our catastrophe took precedence over the idea that children should honor their parents and go with their will. The world should know by now that the most dangerous people in the world are those who have nothing to live for. Many young Palestinians fit that category. For many young Palestinians, facing down fully armed Israeli soldiers guarantees a feeling of freedom and power. "If we cannot be equal in life," someone said to me, "we will be in death. Whether it's us or them, the dead leave behind a shell and, then, our faith will bring us a new life."
People from the Mediterranean area, particularly Arabs, are famous for their sense of passion and emotion. We are romantic souls with plenty of sentimental poetry to prove it. We are less prone to wait before we act, but we are not stupid or violent. We have a strong appreciation democracy and peace.
Maturity does bring with it hesitation and suppression of unseemly feeling. We have waited since 1948 for the Israelis and the world to see what good they have to offer. Sadly, nations seem blind to what has happened and readily turn away from the reality of our plight. Our kids are angry from the very depths of their beings. Intellectually and emotionally, they know very little beyond oppression. They've grown up in refugee camps, had their homes demolished, seen their fathers and older brothers taken to jail, some returning so badly beaten, they cannot walk or speak. Almost every family living in Palestine knows what it means to work without pay. All the Palestinians have become living martyrs, and there is no denying it.
No, our stones are not very effective against Israelis' military might, but our peaceful, pleading words, prayers, or efforts have not been effective either.
A couple of days ago, I knelt beside injured people in the hospital and tried to learn their stories, their histories. I asked one middle- aged woman who was shot in the stomach, "How did this happen? Why were you on the street?" "I was protecting my son," she answered. "Then, you gave birth to your child twice," I said, "for he is going to live."
I am a Palestinian, and I've seen that we are faithful believers. We believe in our right to live on our own land. We want to live and let live, but we will not lie down or wait in line to be killed. We have waited long enough. And, by now, I know that Israelis kill our kids deliberately to break our hearts and bring our nation to its knees. I do not want to mourn over the body of another Palestinian youth. But, if I must, I know these children will unite with the earth of Palestine, providing hydrocarbons and nutrition to our red soil. Our lemon trees will grow, our gnarled olive trees will bend as mothers over our dead and our bonds with the place where we were born will live on forever.
(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)
|Grandfather’s Olive Groves|
|04/08/02 at 08:54:44|
|One Palestinian’s Story: Grandfather’s Olive Groves|
By Samah Jabr with Betsy Mayfield
Among the most joyous moments of my childhood were days spent picking olives. I’m a city person, born and raised in Jerusalem but, like every Palestinian, I have a connection with the village and the vineyard, with the farm and the fruit groves.
My grandfather, Abu-Faheem, was born in 1915 in Kifel-Hares, a village suburb of Nablus. A Holy Land village is a cluster of stone houses nestled among fruit and olive groves. The homes, usually within sight of one another, are connected by a winding road and rocky outgrowths that our children scramble among in their play. There may be a local family-run convenience store, but mostly villages are simple rural neighborhoods where everyone knows everyone else. There is a coziness in the familiarity that makes our social and family lives complete—that makes us Arab.
At the end of World War I, my grandfather needed work and, like many young men of that era, moved to Jerusalem to seek his fortune. He worked for a time with the British police and began to mix with Europeans and Jews, people of various cultures. All the while, though, he missed his family and friends in Kifel-Hares. So, not surprisingly, he used the money he made to invest in land in his village.
Juha’s Olive Oil
It wasn’t long before grandfather could afford to re-establish himself in Kifel-Hares. There, he planted olive trees, bought a used olive press, and put his old blind donkey, Juha, to work. Juha spent his days moving the press, going round and round enormous piles of fresh green olives. My grandfather praised Juha and credited him with the family’s reputation for yielding the best olive oil in the region.
Really, though, it was my grandfather’s ingenuity that made the family’s olive oil special. He had learned something in the big city. He invested in huge storage jars and would leave the freshly made oil in the jars until it separated into two layers. Then he would skim off the top layer and sell this for cooking oil. The bottom layer he used to manufacture soap. Like a primitive chemist he’d work in a musty, old room where he’d spend hours inventing and improving his soon-to-be famous soap. He was, in fact, an entrepreneur, although no one would have called him that at the time. I remember stepping into his old “research” lab after he died and it was closed down. The room still smelled of olive oil. I felt as if I had stepped back into the Middle Ages.
My grandfather passed away long before I was born, so I never knew him. But I saw the pride in my grandmother’s face when she showed us children her and our inheritance: the olive groves, the olive press and grandfather’s laboratory.
“We’ll pick olives and it will be like it always has been.”
My father and mother were not tied to the groves like my grandmother and some of my aunts and uncles. My parents chose academic work and city life. Today, it isn’t even our family who cares for our groves, but close friends, whom we consider family, from the village. Yet despite the fact that my family did not remain in Kifel-Hares to take care of our property, my brother and sisters and I were brought up attached to the village. It was the melody stringing all the chords of our daily lives together.
For as long as I can remember, every year our whole family—uncles, aunts, and cousins—would go to Kifel-Hares to pick olives together. There our friends would laugh at us and say, “Look at the city folks. You are too soft to pick olives. May God bless the soul of Abu-Faheem. He was a real man!”
“What do you mean?” my brother would shout back. “Kifel-Hares is a museum. We’ve heard the story of the laboratory and the patient donkey, Juha, many times.”
Even though we joked about it, the story had great significance Always one of the older children would trot the youngest child around to see grandpa’s old equipment. We’d end the day with a delicious meal of musakhan, chicken covered with the spice sumac and baked in a huge outdoor stone oven. Everyone in the village would celebrate the harvest with us.
In mid-October, despite our concerns about the violence surrounding us, we planned somehow to take my little nephews, ages 4 and 5, to Kifel-Hares to celebrate the season of picking olives.“We need a day to forget this violence and all our troubles,” I told my parents. “We’ll go to Kifel-Hares and we’ll pick olives and it will be like it always has been.”
Attacks on Farmers
A few days before we were about to go, however, news reports announced that several settlements had sent their people to attack Palestinian farmers while they were picking their olives. My parents decided to delay the trip.
Perhaps we should have gone, regardless. For only a few days after we decided not to go to Kifel-Hares, the Israeli Authority, in conjunction with residents of the Ariel settlement, confiscated our 20,000-square meter-olive grove and bulldozed more than 400 olive trees, uprooting them and destroying my grandfather’s legacy to us. Our family property is at the edge of the settlement, and the Israelis claimed they needed our land to provide more security for their settlers.
Israeli soldiers and settlers uprooted our “olive-pregnant” trees not only for security, we fear, but to expand settlements in spite of—or perhaps to take advantage of—the current tensions.
We did not cry when we heard the news of the death of our olive grove, for we are full of laments for the people we know who have died in this intifada. But our olive groves and our precious trees are hard to forget. The trees were our symbols of family love, solidarity, history and peace.
Although the trees are gone, our memories, like those of any family anywhere, remain. They are no longer joyous, however. Now, when I think of the trees, I think of our uprooted people and of emptiness. I want to have hope that with the spring will come a new planting, a resurrection of life as my family and I know it. I’ll have to wait and see.
|Our Living Martyrs|
|04/08/02 at 08:56:40|
Palestinian Prisoners: Our Living Martyrs
By Samah Jabr With Betsy Mayfield
When I meet the mother of a Palestinian martyr, I don’t cry with her or ask her to show false pride and strength. I say instead, “Your child is in God’s hands, where life is more just and fair than the life we’re living.” Often, my words have proven to be effective.
When I meet the mother of a Palestinian political prisoner, however, I don’t know what to say. I choke with the dead words in my throat.
Israel is notorious for its political prisons, like Neve Tirza in Al Ramleh, Abu Kbeir, and Demona. While the Israeli government imprisons children as young as 14 years old in these jails, few Israeli human rights organizations consistently speak out against the inhuman conditions and physical and psychological torture these young captives must endure. Needless to say, the Israeli government has no interest in improving prison conditions in these prisons.
A month ago, I went to Neve Tirza to stand in solidarity with a group of women political prisoners who have been on a hunger strike. There were only about 50 of us—nothing like the massive crowds attending a martyr’s funeral or the hundreds who line up outside universities to shout their slogans and announce the latest protest strike. Some who might have joined us, I imagine, were turned back at checkpoints. Others had to make use of a day with fewer curfew restrictions to obtain what food they could. Office workers may have rushed to their jobs in hopes of getting a little work done before the mid-afternoon rush hour—the race to get home before a new curfew might take effect.
As I stood outside the prison with my sisters, eager to show solidarity with those in pain, the sight of our small group made me recall the sad words of Mahmoud Abu-Al-Sukkar, a Palestinian who has spent 26 years of his life in jail because he dared protest when Zionists came to take his land. “I used to think that if you call Palestinians to stand in solidarity with their prisoners,” he wrote, “the streets would be full of the thousands. But that was my fantasy and imagination.”
Abu Al-Sukkar’s expression of isolation and abandonment makes me aware of our peace negotiators’ neglect and disregard of the thousands of Palestinian freedom fighters who spent and are still spending the best years of their lives behind bars. What if, I wonder, the greatest among us are in these prisons, only waiting for the chance to lead? Is Palestine’s Nelson Mandela today languishing in an Israeli prison?
Standing outside Neve Tirza, I know the names of some of the prisoners, but there are so many. What woman or man of the people are we failing to recognize? When our prisoners leave their cells, will we Palestinians be ready to acknowledge the sacrifice they have made and open avenues of leadership to them? Given that we’re all virtual prisoners in our own homes, are we too close to each other to see the potential for leadership among ourselves?
Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada, more than one year ago, Israeli (and Palestinian) prison populations have swelled. Given that 50 percent of the Palestinian population is under the age of l8, it isn’t surprising that many of the prisoners are in their prime, youthful, willful, wanting. We do not know what to say to the parents and grandparents of our young prisoners—especially when 13- and 14-year-old youths are captured by their own police and put away, out of sight and out of mind. We live like the creatures in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where “some animals are more equal than others.”
While I was disappointed that our protest was small, I’m glad I stood outside Neve Tirza prison on that day not so long ago. With our presence, I and 49 others gave credence and visibility to the women the Israeli government hopes will slip into oblivion along with the rest of us. We may not have a Nelson Mandela among us, but perhaps we have better. We have thousands of political prisoners willing to sacrifice freedom and happiness for Palestinian independence. Whether hidden away in Israeli or Palestinian prisons or locked up under house arrest or in community bantustans, we are not giving in. We stand, “broken, but not bowed” in defiance of Israel’s might-makes-right mentality.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/09/02 at 07:38:52|
Sofia, I shall convey your admiration for Samah's writing to her when I speak to her again, inshaAllah. I ask all of you now to please remember her in your Duaas as she is undertaking a journey, and there are many potential problems and hazards that she can face. InshaAllah khair...
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/11/02 at 09:54:18|
|Of the painful things I have read about, seen on TV or witnessed, I have never come across the kind of pain I felt reading these journals. I had to print to read the entire contents of the different journals depecting a variety of instances and events related to them. INALILLAHI WA INALILLAHI RAJIUUN.|
Now here is a sister who is using her education to serve her people in the most inhuman circumstances and environment and at the same time, not afraid to share her experience with the entire world. A world jaded towards Palestininians and their just cause.
May Allah, Subhanu Wataallah reward you a thousand folds. May Allah uphold your unfailing spirit and above, may Allah heed your pain and the pain of your people and bring justice and free the Palestinians, INSHA-ALLAH.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/12/02 at 07:13:56|
Halima, may Allah reward you for all you have said and felt. I will be sure to tell Samah about your post, inshaAllah.
I found another article she wrote a little while ago, that I will post now.
Dying for Public Relations
Washington Report On Middle East Affairs- March/2002
The Palestinian/Israeli conflict has become a staple of international news through neverending reports that volley our ping-pong
violence back and forth, inviting an international audience to see bloodshed as it happens. The drama of conflict sells, they tell
me, and marketers of news must draw an audience. So far, the Middle East has disappointed neither the marketers or
consumers of news. We live the stories, the propaganda, the sound bites. Here in Palestine, we¹re all dying, in a sense, for
public relations. The world seems to view us as mere actors in a war movie, trying our best to get the lead roles and the support
to survive until the world¹s directors call, ³Cut!²
In Hollywood movies, one man can pummel another and, the next day, the victim is up and about, showing no sign of injury or
pain. For us, however, the pain is real, lasting and ugly. Women do not maintain perfect clothes or makeup when shoved into
the mud at a checkpoint. Young men beaten with gun butts or kicked in the ribs by soldiers wearing military boots do not jump
out of bed the next morning as if nothing had happened to them the day before.
Longing for peace, writing endlessly in hopes of increasing the world¹s understanding of our position, caring for the injured in
our hospitals, hanging onto my beloved family and friends for strength and relief, I¹m still threatened by the shadows of death
walking ahead of us to our future here in occupied Palestine.
It has become part of my daily routine to get up early in the morning, pick up a newspaper, look at the pictures and read the
names of the latest who died for our cause. I put the paper down despondently, wondering who will be next. Every day, it
seems, we hear about another Palestinian youngster blowing himself up to protest the Israeli occupation. Nor, these days, is the
act limited to the ³few religious fanatics² of the past. ³Suicide Bomber a Woman,² announced the headlines of Jan. 27.
As much as I am haunted by the pain I see in virtually all our people: men, women and children, this headline jolted me into a
deeper awareness of my own anguish with what life has become in Palestine.
On the morning of 27-year-old Wafa Idris¹s act, I remember standing with my sister, waiting at the "Ultra-obstructed² morning checkpoint ³the half-a-day morning rush,² we call it. Along the wall men stood, waiting with arms raised, car engines still purring. I whispered to my sister, ³Look at the line up! I¹ll bet there will be a bombing during the day and Israel will shell the skies over our heads tonight.²
³Surprise, surprise,² she replied nonchalantly, passing over my comment with a nod toward the traffic around us.
At noon, from the medical library of Al-Maqassed Hospital on the Mount of Olives, I could hear the horrible sounds of a bomb
in West Jerusalem. No surprise, I thought. We have learned to predict violence with uncanny accuracy. Of course, I did not yet
know who had died, or how many. The first thought that crossed my mind, however, was the irreverent reflection that, perhaps,
we were dying for public relations. Just by the strength of the boom, I knew it would make the news. I did not know, however,
how those reports would slant the story.
³Palestinians have terrorism in their genes,² I had recently heard an Israeli suggest. Distracted, now, by thoughts of how the
press would tell the newest ³bomber² story, I thought, ³What a sound bite that phrase is!² Words go out around the world on
the same theme: ³It¹s the Palestinians¹ fault. There are, of course, variations on the theme: ³Get rid of Arafat.² ³Shell their
homes.² ³Assassinate their leaders.² ³Dismantle their resistance.² ³Build a wall!²
Repetition is the talent of the Zionist spin doctors, and of others who do not know or who reject the humanity that is ours as
well as theirs Israelis, Americans, whoever. Such sound bite rhetoric does nothing to ³cure the disease² or even,³help relieve the
symptoms.² Like violent reaction from either side, sound bites simply aggravate the region¹s cancers, and lend themselves to the
facile reversal of truth. Who is it who wants to totally push the other off the land? Who is it who always stalls at the peace
table? Who is it who demands so many concessions, but concedes so little in exchange?
To the people of the ³civilized² world, it often seems, facts and figures have no ³sex appeal.² Better to show pictures of
violence, the more horrible the better. People will look at them to flavor their less than dramatic lives. Precisely because they
finally will pay attention, and each day here becomes predictable. In the name of public relations, murder and dying and
hate crimes and people cowering in fear attract those who, evidently, find our real life horrors more ³entertaining² than the films
dreadful enough to be used as lessons about the horrendous cost of war ³Saving Private Ryan,² for example, or ³Battle of
Since the day Wafa Idris died, I¹ve been confused. Thoughts about a world made aware through the Internet and, perhaps, a
press corps awakening to our truth, now seem over idealistic, and simply wrong. Instead, our choices seemed more and more
despairing, and relentlessly hopeless. I long to be an effective voice for peace, for life, but the resounding booms and gunfire
from our streets diminish my spirits. All I feel is failure. Should I, too, be choosing death? I think of the pictures I¹ve seen
of the Sept. 11 destruction in New York. One of the greatest horrors was a picture of people who chose to die by their own
method, leaping out of the World Trade Center windows rather than waiting to burn to death inside the building which had
become a trap.
I see a connection with those doomed people. Some Americans chose to jump popular tourist attractions in ccupied Palestine
is the Massada, a mountainous plateau where Jews once committed suicide en masse rather than be taken as slaves or killed by
their enemies. Palestinian suicide bombing is sad and wrong. While it is not excusable, however, it is understandable. I want to
ask the people of the ³civilized² world who flinch or shake their heads in disbelief when such an act occurs, and label all of us
["evil terrorists." Aren't there individuals in your own world who choose to kill themselves when things don¹t work out the way
they wish? If they lose a girlfriend or a fortune, for example? Aren¹t there people everywhere who lose all perspective and gun
down others, and then themselves? Our people who commit these acts have lost everything. Why, then, is it a surprise when certain individuals among us choose death?
When Wafa Idris¹s name was released three days after her death, I fell into even deeper despair. Wafa is not, by any stretch of
the imagination, the first Palestinian woman to sacrifice her life for our cause. She¹s simply the first woman to have walked the
steady steps to death since the al-Aqsa intifada started 16 months ago. As I write these words, on a day in March, another
woman, Dareen Abu- Aisheh, has followed in Wafa¹s steps. My own and other people¹s inability to stop people like
Wafa from killing themselves rattles my reason. I knew neither of these women, and their deaths, of course, were not my fault.
Why, then, do I feel so guilty, so pained, so despairing? Perhaps because I so identify with the despair these women must have
Wafa, from Al-Ama¹ari refugee Camp, was a young, active, lively paramedic who was pulled into the ³martyrdom syndrome.²
Why she decided to die as she did are choices gone with her. We can speculate, however. Perhaps it was the endless televised
accounts and pictures of burnt human flesh on floors and walls, blood pooling in a bathtub, the still-warm mattresses of
assassinated Palestinians left in the wake of another Israel ³Defense² Force¹s ³political² murders. Or perhaps her own
experiences or clashes at roadblocks pushed her over the edge. Was she acquainted with one of those killed? Had she herself
been beaten or humiliated? What is certain is that Wafa did not choose to die because she thought 100 virgins would greet her
in heaven. In fact, Wafa was affiliated with the Fateh Party, which does not engage in suicide bombing. She was a healer who
had invested herself in life, not in death.
The Israelis made so much of the fact that Wafa, a woman, had committed ³terrorism.² Was she different from an Israeli
woman required to serve in the Israel ³Defense² Force? When Israeli tanks roll into our towns and villages bent on destruction,
the women soldiers often are right in there with the men.
Settlers and Soldiers
I think of the endless examples of civilian losses and deaths at the hands of Jewish settlers in bullying us at checkpoints;
genderless Israeli missiles which smash our citizens daily, with a violence that generates less media ³buzz² than the revelation
that ³a woman did it.² Wafa¹s suicide resounded around the world. Surely some who paid attention to her death will begin to
wonder about the pain, the desperation that could have led her to such an act. Wafa¹s story is no different from those of
virtually all of our suicide bombers. Her gender, however, made her action different enough to get the world¹s attention.
Today, I look out my window at the hills of Palestine and wonder if we can do anything better than die to make the
world recognize our humanity. I think of the horror of checking the daily papers every morning to see who died yesterday. For
yet another day, I take a deep breath and choose to survive as an advocate for truth and justice. I stay alive to continue
searching for the words that speak of our goodness and our being. I seek out words to share so that violence is not the only
viable response to oppression we Palestinians have. I lift my voice, as I always will in my lifetime, to ask you the humanists, the
freedom fighters of the world, the people of conscience who are too busy with their own causes and communities to worry
about the last occupation on earth, hopefully, that is taking place in Palestine. I ask you, who say you understand, to take a
firmer moral stand against the injustice that is overwhelming millions of us in the Holy Land. What we face each day on the
West Bank and Gaza is not a Hollywood script or a clever, dismissive sound bite to enhance rhetoric. It¹s real violence, real
war, real evil.
I take my stand on the side of dialogue and statesmanship, not that of violence that destroys all human potential. For Wafa
Idris, and others like her, I pull her pain into my heart and continue to live, because I care about the woman she was and, now,
always will be.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/12/02 at 07:15:27|
The Lost Voice
The Palestine Times
For Sara who died mute, I speak. For my people here in Palestine, I project my thoughts. For those who use violence to gain
recognition, I urge use of life and words to bring understanding to neglected realities. To Betsy Mayfield, my friend who assists
me in writing my own story in her language, I give my work. I can do this because I choose to cooperate, confident enough in
myself to know that I have as much to give my assistant as she has to give to me. No one is in this world alone; we all have
each other, and I can speak because I’ve come to understand how close we all really are.
Samah Jabr, MD
At 62, Sara faced death. Brought into al-Makased Hospital, she was dying of a severe lung disease. Our physicians gave her
medication and physiotherapy. Nothing worked. Finally, she was connected to a ventilator. I was there when the T-shaped
plastic tube was inserted to connect her trachea to an oxygen machine. It pleased me to see colour return to Sara’s face and to
watch her lips turn from blue to pink. I thought she would relax and, who knows, maybe even get a reprieve, allowing her to
live more of her precious life.
Revived, Sara surprised all of us with her considerable physical strength. As suddenly as the colour returned to her face, energy
spurred her on. She reached up and grabbed one of the attending doctors by his white coat, pulling him so forcefully that he
found himself eyeball to eyeball with his patient. Sara had something to say. No matter how eagerly she tried, however, she
could not speak. The T-piece in her throat, her last link to life, had separated the outgoing air from her vocal cords. She could
not share her thoughts, cry out in pain, or even chuckle, should she improbably have something to laugh about.
Wanting to help, I suggested getting something for Sara to write on, but the physician to whom Sara had entrusted her last
attempt to speak gave me a condescending look and said quietly, “Dr. Jabr, Sara is an illiterate villager from Turmusayya. She
cannot write. Let’s move on.”
All day, Sara’s desperation troubled me. When I finished my duties, I slipped in to check on her. As I bent over to look into
Sara’s face, she reached up and strongly gripped my arm, again, trying desperately to communicate. I put my ear to her mouth.
No sound. I tried to speak through the use of my hands and she, in turn, waved her hands and shook my arm, but to no avail.
One of the nurses in the unit saw my frustration. She told me that she’d tried to contact someone in Sara’s family who might be
able to tell us how to “speak” with her. A nephew promised to try and visit his aunt, but it was clear that he could not help us
The next morning, Sara died of cardiac arrest. I knew she was at peace, free from suffering, but I could not get her effort to
communicate out of my mind. I began to think of Sara as a metaphor for all the millions of human beings who have no voice:
minorities, battered women, husbands, wives, children who cannot make other family members understand, oppressed people
who live in fearful silence under monarchs or dictators, people embarrassed to speak out.
Most relevant to my reality and background is the Palestinian plight. This is what I want people everywhere to understand.
Like people everywhere, however, I find it hard to articulate what I want to say. Furthermore, knowing how the stresses of my
life cut me off from much of the rest of the world’s sorrows, I can imagine that hearing about our situation is just too much for
most of the people around the world. Like the team of doctors who did what they could for Sara but, then, walked away,
people can only absorb so much before they click off and think only of the duties and stresses ahead of them. Still, I want to
speak effectively. I feel an urgency to express myself so that the light of my country is not extinguished before the world is
aware of who we Palestinians are.
I’ve taken the path of cooperation. Knowing that English is not my mother language and that it is difficult for people outside my
native land to understand my Arabic writing, I was lucky enough to have guidance and assistance from an old English teacher,
Betsy Mayfield. Betsy and I enjoy applying universality to real life accounts in an effort to show similarities among people from
different nationalities. We write together so that people as far away as Asia and America can find out how Palestinians react to
and measure up under pressure from the occupation that surrounds them. Betsy and I balance each other, allowing our
individual talent to connect so that our two voices tell one story.
Considering that: I am Muslim, Betsy is of Christian heritage; I am in my mid-20s and Betsy in her 60s; I remain a native of
occupied Jerusalem and Betsy is alive and well in the safety and freedom of America, it’s unique that we can reach consensus
and publish pieces we both agree upon. Ours is a tiny example of how people can relate to each other, can get beyond the
attitude of “you said this and that’s offensive, and I won’t speak to you anymore.”
Betsy and I don’t always agree and, unfortunately, we’re both capable of “verbal violence” and arguments, but we talk, we
learn from our differences and we grow wiser.
Palestinians have often failed to articulate the Palestinian perspective effectively. We came out of the 1948 and 1967
catastrophes lacking in Western public relations skills. Many of us were like illiterate Sara, desperate to speak, but unable to be
heard. I assure you, however, Palestinians were certainly “a people” and we did and do exist. Unlike those who came to our
Middle Eastern land from Europe with an open invitation from the Western World to colonize and modernize our place and
time, our people were unaccustomed to the use of propaganda, to big-gun violence, to money flowing like “manna from
heaven” to make a “desert green.” Our voices were as muted as Sara’s and, when we tried to speak, the world, pretty much,
walked away to attend to other “patients” facing tough situations closer to home. There is no shame in that. It’s just the way it
Once, Betsy and I were together in Ames, Iowa, and Betsy got out one of her favourite videos, “Schindler’s List.” Watching
that film, neither she nor I could keep tears from our eyes. We felt another people’s unimaginable pain. That film showed us
both the power of story to reach virtually any person anywhere. Now, few good Palestinian feature films are available in
America, the latest of which, “The Tale of Three Jewels,” portrays life in a Gazan Palestinian refugee camp. This gentle,
dramatic story contains the realism Western people expect in a film. Because it doesn’t make all Palestinians look unrealistically
worldly or perfect, however, a few Palestinians reject it as “bad press.” To me, however, this film is an example of the kind of
speaking out we Palestinians need to do. “The Tale of Three Jewels” is not like the grossly distorted, but famous propaganda
film, “Exodus.” However, it is a modest film that tells a noble truth about Palestine and Palestine’s people. It has universal
appeal because it is so real and believable. It fits into a new genre of international non-fiction. Like my writing with Betsy, it
speaks strongly through the voice of the once silenced.
We Palestinians have done a good job at bridging the great educational gap between our occupiers and us. Many of us have
joined the modern world, so to speak. Were our trees not so uprooted, our homes not so demolished, our lives not so
threatened, what remains of our Palestine could be green from the edges of the Sinai to the Lebanese border.
We still have a long way to go. We have to learn to cooperate with whoever offers a hand of friendship to us, even with those
who support us from outside our borders. I can testify that it works for Betsy Mayfield and me. Our work liberates us from the
feeling of helplessness and makes us both feel happy and fulfilled and that’s what matters most for both of us.
*Samah Jabr is a Palestinian writer, a physician and a life-long resident of East Jerusalem. This piece was written in honour of
Betsy Mayfield, an American friend of Samah who has assisted her in writing Samah’s stories in English.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/12/02 at 07:17:05|
No Lights in Bethlehem This Year
A letter exchange between a Palestinian and her American friend
by Samah Jabr
What are you thinking as your Christmas holiday arrives preempting our Ramadan? Will this God of ours and of the Hebrews, too, intervene and give us peace as the cards you send suggest? You tell me that you're not seeing much in the news about our struggle. You suggest that Americans are bored hearing about our cause, a war they do not understand. Murder and yet another holocaust is old stuff carried on by barbarians on the other side of the ocean. Both sides are crazy your friends say as they prepare to celebrate the man who spoke of peace and love. That the Israelis want to take everything that lies in their path to salvation and we Palestinians want to be safe in our homes is of no consequence to those of you who are safe in "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
I guess the last story I told you before Thanksgiving was about an Israeli helicopter whirling above the integrated Christian/Muslim village of Beit Sahour. Many Americans, I think, do not know that there are Christian Palestinians.
If they do know, Betsy, do they care? I think Americans put their heads down and plod through life, glancing up only occasionally in order to assuage their boredom and pep up their ineffectiveness and embarrassment in handling the political process. When things get too crazy in America, then the population points a finger at us and names us the world's primitives acting out yet another version of God's will.
After all, our fights are always news because people the world over have heard of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, particularly at Christmas time. Did I finish telling you about Beit Sahour, Betsy? The Israelis took over the air space above Beit Sahour in their American machine of war looking to assassinate a leader of the Fateh Party's militia,which the Palestinian Authority supposedly failed to control.
Silencing a leader was not just a provocation; it was a missionary visit intended, the Israelis later told the press, as a preemptive strike against the Muslims to protect the Christian Arabs. First, the Israelis explained, we had to stop the man responsible for shooting attacks on the Gilo Israeli Settlement. Because we stopped one terrorist, we helped the Palestinian Christians because now the Palestinian Muslims will not use their towns to launch attacks on us. How many over there in America who read the Israeli explanation would understand the meaning of this statement? To kill a Muslim leader and to hint that Christian Palestinians should fear Mushim Palestinians is an old British imperialist's trick. It's that famous old divide-and-conquer idea, the kind of thinking that led to the seventeen-year war in Lebanon. That two genuinely innocent women passing by on the day of the helicopter shooting were killed by Israelis and a dozen other Christians and Muslims seriously injured seems beside the point to those who feel they have a right to our land and our lives.
What a story to report without the explanation just before America turned its attention to elections! As in all the tales sent via the press to America, there was no mention of why we Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, dare to struggle against mighty Israel. Murder by helicopter is a great deal more dramatic than the text of the Oslo Agreement with its uneven, unjust accords that leave Palestinians with nothing and the Israelis with everything. How many of your friends who say that Israel and Palestine are so close to peace have actually read the requirements of giving up that we Palestinians face?
Given that the patriots who fought to take America had little mercy on the native inhabitants, isn't it ironic that helicopters called "Apaches" are a gift to Israel from the heirs of the New World? These American Apaches crumble my world as if all this was planned out, signed and sealed by God and America. The images sting my soul. To use a Christian image, the Holy Land is being crucified, Betsy. With hundreds dead, more than 10,000 injured in our hospitals, kids dying every day in unpublicized sniper attacks, Christmas coming and Ramadan upon us, what reality has all our religious, moral sensibility given us? Today, in Bethlehem it seems as if Christ was stillborn and all we have is analogical stories proven false by time. Christmas has been cancelled.
There will be no celebration in Bethlehem this year.
Last year, the year 2000, Arab Bethlehem received world news coverage as people crowded Manger Square to dance and sing. Plans for visitors occupied us. We Palestinians were like a mother when told that her son must die, wakes in the morning supposing this news is only a bad dream. We, like the sad mother, wake in a fury of hopeful efforts designed to allow us a little more denial. We awake, now, however, aware that our nightmare is our reality. One year ago, we were not thinking of war; we, Palestinian Christian and Muslim alike, were busy with plans and hope. We did not anticipate Apache helicopters, tanks, missiles closer to home than any sent to Lebanon in what Israelis call a "necessary tragedy."
Israelis now send missiles to take down our homes, our schools, water, electricity, infrastructure, and hospitals. On the ground they tear up our olive groves and citrus groves because they say there is no reason for them to exist. The Israelis kill us economically as well as physically and emotionally. Then, they tell the world that they have to do this to stop Arafat's violence. They slide in the idea that "sneaky" Muslims use Christian villages to launch their violence on Israeli settlements. They absolve Arab Christians so as not to offend American Christians, but they kill Arab Christians just the same.
Betsy, night shelling is not exclusive to Muslim or Christian-Muslim towns, the Israeli missiles violate the peaceful nights of almost every Palestinian town and city, killing and wounding many people. It's time for Christian holidays, but I can tell you that our Christian Arab kids are not going off to sleep with dreams of sugar plums nor will our Muslim Arab kids dream happily on the eve of Eid. Palestinian children know only terror. Where is Christmas, Betsy? Where is the God you and I both celebrate through our different rites and prayers? I write to you through confusion.
Has nothing changed since the Europeans conquered the Native Americans? Have we not evolved at all toward reason and acceptance of each other?
Let me say again, Betsy, there is no holy night in Bethlehem this year.
With love and sadness,
Yes, the holiday season is upon us here in America. I'm afraid it is religious for only a few. It isn't a holiday season, it's the commercial season. It affects me like everyone else because I am part of this culture. I want to make my family happy. I have a tree to cut (that's how we do it in Iowa) and decorate, feasts to serve, gifts to buy that lose relevance when I realize how broke I'll be in just one month, and two houses (mine and my mother's) to decorate with an array of heirloom "treasures" that would open wide the eyes of King Midas, even with the red and green among the gold.
"Come on, Betsy," my mother, my best friend and my kids inform me, "you have too much to do in December to think about Palestine." I give my loved ones a look they can construe as a smile. They think they've talked me out of my preoccupation with your world. Like most people around me, they are indifferent to the place our children, wearing fake kaffiyas and robes from grandma's closet, will portray in pageants and too concerned with a batch of cookies to wonder who died on the streets of Bethlehem today. You tell me, Samah, that at least five or more young people die of war wounds in what we, consider Christ's birth town every day or in Nazareth, the setting of Jesus' boyhood. Even Palestinians with Israeli ID cards die and the Israelis do not blink, but suggest that this is war and might is right. If God didn't say so, America did.
Here, we've become desensitized to violence many decry as savage and inexcusable, not worthy of our attention. Here, we cover our eyes and our awareness and see, instead, with trivial perception, news of chads, voters' marks, that will, one way or another, add up to give us a new President who will no doubt disappoint you, regardless of who he turns out to be. You will have cause not to like the winner, because the new American leader will undoubtedly fail to see your struggle from your point-of-view. If you're lucky, he will realize that neither side presents a monolithic wall of truth and will bend to serve both sides. You tell me, Samah, that you would like one day in Ames, Iowa, a vacation from violence. I, for my part, would like one day in Jerusalem. I miss the energy kf dangerous silence on the West Bank and lament the ease of life here where all the stores are ten minutes away and all the people are preoccupied with outdoing their neighbors with Christmas lights, lights that will not reach all the way to Bethlehem.
In short, Samah, I miss the tension in the Old City's air. In the quiet of night, barbed wire clearly visible in unflattering lights most people dare not mingle among, I once felt the stealth of fear and, for me, it was more life giving than the calm of the country where the stars shine brightly.
I wish you could have your day here. It wouldn't matter, though. Calm may persist, but peace departs forever when one learns that death through war is not just a primal, gut wrenching expectation, but a bloody, pain instigating reality. Few generals long for war once they've seen the consequences, that is, if they achieve a state of compassion. Know this, though, beloved Samah. If I bake sugar stars and candy Christmas trees, and I will, unable to resist the need to mother, I will do it with you in mind. I'll do the expected task of giving in honor of you and the boys who die the same day on the streets of Bethlehem. Honor for you in my doing is what I have to give you. I'll bow my head in church on Christmas Eve and sing "O, Little Town of Bethlehem," but I will know that Bethlehem is dark like a stage on which a play has ended. There is no God to interfere with us at all. We hope for heaven, but we dwell on earth in the manner of our place and time and being and most often this has nothing at all to do with anything holy.
I wish I could send you a package of peace wrapped up with a bow of doves. What I do send is remembrance and a promise to never forget the truth of your life and the lives of all those who live in the reality of oppression and displacement. In my knowing and in yours is our mutual hope. You and I will offer a new generation of survivors who, in their turn, may begin the endless path of evolutionary progress. One day after all the swinging back and forth of time and place and being, these inheritors of what we leave behind will put truth and justice and peace ahead of having to have it all. If this happens, it will be because human intelligence evolved into believing that Eden or Zion, call it what you will, does not belong to one people or another, but to every single one of us.
With love and honor,
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/12/02 at 07:17:56|
The Holidays and Peace- Maybe Next Year?
The Palestine Times/ London
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;.....this includes freedom to manifest religion or belief through teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Article 18 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The most celebrated season for Muslims has passed. For me, the holiday is Ramadan—a whole month of hunger and thirst in a quest for God’s grace and gifts. While memory and joy and love resound for all those who follow Abrahamic religious traditions, it is awe of God that most characterizes our celebration.
Like those of any religion who find delight or meaning in a holy time of year, we Palestinians await the month of Ramadan with eager anticipation. When the moon’s crescent awakens us to the longed-for time of observance, we do not dance around an evergreen, cut and anchored in our living rooms, nor do we celebrate around candles that represent our past. Make no mistake, though, our holiday is not an austere time for us. Ramadan’s celebrations provide plenty of joy in rites similar to Jewish menorah lighting and family meals and Christians’ Christmas carols followed by hot chocolate or oyster stew. Here in the Middle East, our markets are filled with shoppers looking for special Ramadan treats. Families come together. Above all, we Muslims focus for a whole month on the goal of bolstering our year-long personal holy struggle. Using restraint as a means to an end, we wage a “Jihad” within ourselves to shun unworthy thinking and to widen a door of our souls so we can walk out into the world with a greater sense of inner grace, peace and happiness.
Our feasts come after sundown, following each day of fasting. For an entire month, those of us in good health neither eat nor drink from sun up to sun down. Ramadan is first and foremost a celebration of patience. We are asked to feel hunger and thirst like those less fortunate. Our sacrificial fast allows us the experience we need to possess God’s gift of empathy. Experience teaches us and renews for us a sense of mercy. When our fast is broken each sundown, then we share the joy of gratitude. We eat together in honour of the one God who is our provider. By coming together, we recognize God’s wisdom in gathering us into families and surrounding us with friends.
When we reach the end of our month of sacrifice—the Eid Al-Fitr—we feast grandly as we begin the rest of the year with a renewed sense of compassion and generosity toward others. To those of other Abrahamic religions, the purpose of our rites should sound familiar. Giving up daily bread so we can better understand what God would have us do, concentrating on giving to those more needy than we and bowing in prayer are the essentials, reinforcing childhood’s moral lessons we human beings seem to need regardless of which holiday we celebrate.
As a child, I experienced Ramadan first, but later was introduced to the meaning behind Hanukkah and Christmas. I thought we were all living in a nearly perfect world. I thought it was great that people were free to celebrate as they chose. It did not dawn on me that there were religious people living very near to me who did not want us around because we did not celebrate or live in the same way as they did.
Although I was unaware that people had or would put thoughts like mine into words, I imagined that we were all recipients of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the near-perfect world of childhood, the meaning of the holidays simply seemed to connect us.
Unfortunately, we Palestinians do not enjoy the freedom of practicing our religion anymore than the other basics rights of human life. Since the occupation of Palestine in 1948, the Zionists and their supporters have rejected a philosophy of universal human rights, for Palestinians, in favour of might-makes-right power politics. This year, perhaps, more vividly than any in my memory, I felt an awareness of power politics and how this blemished the meaning of Ramadan and the following holiday, Eid Al-Fitr. On television, I saw men dancing and celebrating amid hundreds of dead bodies in Kabul. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. After all, before the end of our holy month, there were plenty of dead bodies to walk among right here in Palestine. I feel weighed down by thoughts of those now imprisoned without trial here in my own country, by thinking of friends who had their homes destroyed all over the West Bank while the world watched the military action that lead to the decline and defeat of the Taliban. I wondered about the Christian story of a manger offered in a gesture of charity as shelter. Would anyone offer my people a manger for homes lost in Israel’s latest rash of home demolitions? Would anyone in America speak out against the terror we faced this last December?
Ramadan is now over and few Palestinians could go to worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the beautiful Dome of the Rock. I am a Jerusalemite, and I have the proper papers for crossing the tight closure and for worshipping at our Islamic shrines. But, Palestinians a few blocks from me don’t have this “luxury”. They do not have the Israeli-required credentials to go to Jerusalem—worship and God aside. Billions around the world are moved with passion when Jerusalem is mentioned during the holidays or at any time, but Israel has closed the door to Muslims who wish to make the trek to a place valued third among Islam’s holy shrines. The door slams shut even for Muslims who live less than a quarter of a mile outside Israel’s definition of Jerusalem, let alone five miles away or ten—so much for Article l8.
Eid Al-Fitr holiday that celebrates our accomplishment during the month of Ramadan is very special among other Islamic holidays. We mark our holidays by reaching out to family and friends, getting together with our neighbours, visiting the cemeteries, the injured and the families who lost their dear ones. But, the security excuses of Israel demands the tearing apart of the Palestinian community during our most joyful times. My sister and her family in Bethlehem, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were not allowed to join the Eid dinner at my parents’ house. And in Bitunia, a suburb of Ramallah, my aunt spent the Eid holiday alone in her apartment, thanks to the tanks situated at her doorstep.
While our words may be prescribed by ritual, our ways of praying are as varied as the torments we suffer. To those who exhort Palestinians to practice passive resistance, I suggest they take note of our insistent praying. Come and see our people at prayer. When some of our people try to reach their mosques but are detained, they bow and pray at checkpoints, along muddy, wasted roads, in shells of ruined homes in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarem. Our prayers reflect our dream of peace. If the world could see us at prayer, surely the peace ingrained in having awe of God would be visible.
I think of the walling-in and crushing of our people that Vladimir Jabotinsky said was necessary in order for a Jewish State to exist. I think of the price we have paid for his philosophy and for the establishment of the Jewish State whose intellectuals claim it to be “the only democracy in the region” and “the moon in the night of the Middle East.” Have the Jewish intellectuals gone far enough in their quest to outdo other human evils to finally begin to comprehend what human rights really mean?
Pondering on the international silence regarding the violation of our religious freedom in Palestine, I suspect that those who have set the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights failed to consider us “customers in their market.” They don’t see the worthiness of a belief in God that does not match theirs exactly. I wonder if this reflects our humanity? Do we seem to have a need to bring everyone into one fold, to do things one way, to find sanctity in sameness, even if it means killing each other to do it? How I wish we could celebrate our differences, nurturing each other through recognition that the sacred is manifest in as many ways as God is perceived and that such variety is part of God’s Greatness.
When they hear our complaints, the clergy in the West look the other way or support Israelis because they remain embarrassed by the Christian and Jewish traditions in which prejudice, hatred and power politics supercede love. History presents many examples in which God’s justice mattered much less than human power. Are the Western clergy still chagrined because they turned away from Jewish suffering until even an ocean could not separate them from the stench of death? Do they not realize that they are allowing hatred to replace love again by turning away from us and allowing injustice to reign supreme in their beloved Holy Land now? I marvel that history seems to be repeating itself faster and faster. The oppressed become the oppressors. Those who are afraid to acknowledge their willingness to be remiss once more, pull inside themselves, still unable to act on the message of love their liturgy teaches.
The secular governments of the world may be unable to broker peace because to do so may lead to their end. Could the moral establishment help them do better? Could the religious estate turn the keys of peace to open the door of justice for us, the Palestinians? This can only happen if the clergy and teachers in all our religions dare to face the truth about themselves. If they let go of the regrets of the past, I feel they have a forum from which they could lead the world to peace.
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/12/02 at 07:20:00|
Israeli youths offer hope for one Palestinian
November/ The Palestine Times- London
Before the death of former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi at
hands of revenge-seeking Palestinians and before the 18 September
invasion of six Palestinian towns, 72 Israeli high school seniors wrote
their Prime Minister and Minister of Defense refusing to enlist in the
three-year mandatory military service required of them after they
Evidently, they understand that agreeing to join the army means giving
government the freedom to use and, if necessary,
sacrifice their lives while making it legal for them to harm or kill
(in particular Palestinians). The students firmly object to
their government’s political agenda and treatment of the
government’s enemy—just because they happen to
live where their government and the radical Zionists it serves want to
Translating their letter from Hebrew to English, this is what I read:
protest against the aggressive and racist policy pursued
by the Israeli government and its army, and inform you that we do not
to take part in the execution of this policy. We
strongly resist Israel’s refusal to abide by human rights acceptable to
free world. Land expropriation, collective arrests,
executions without trial, house demolition, closure, torture and the
prevention of health care are only some of the crimes the
State of Israel carries out in blunt violation of international
it has ratified. These actions are not only illegal, but they
also do not even achieve their stated goal—to increase Israeli
personal safety. Such safety will be achieved only
through a just peace agreement between the Israeli government and the
The students’ letter took courage and an understanding gained through
experience of living here with us Palestinians. It
reflects a moral maturity that challenges the nationalistic and classic
prejudice against us—the Christian and Muslim Arab
Semitic people. Israeli youths who have stood so tall among their own
have great potential to lead. They give me
hope. Is it possible that they are saying that the whole earth is a
gift for humankind to treasure and that no section of this
earth is set aside for one group or another as a special gift to them
from a God who cares more about them than the rest
of humanity? Have they come to realize that encouraging all those of
faith to move to Palestine makes no more sense
than motivating all Presbyterians to move to Scotland, all Catholics to
up the Vatican or all Lutherans to stuff themselves into
Germany? It’s a silly issue, yet, for this we go to war! Hope lies in
will of these Israeli students and what the world makes of
Like me, these 72 young people were born here in the womb of a
conflict. They are the children of those who
immigrated to our land in hope of isolating themselves on this land,
only way they could imagine as a fail-safe way to escape
persecution. Unfortunately, the immigrants followed directives from
Zionist leaders that told them to do unto us what had
been done unto them. Revisionist Zionists felt it was their turn in
to oppress, murder, rob and express unbelievable
disdain for the other—us Palestinians. They went so far as to tell the
of the world that we didn’t exist.
The students who wrote the letter, however, are not their parents or
ancestors. Each student is his or her own person. At
18 years old, each stands responsible for his or her own behaviour.
realizes, as I do, that the knowledge we have today,
knowledge of the whole world, should nudge us beyond a primitive urging
annihilate and replace. Surely, we are no longer so
naïve that it requires a king like Solomon who once held up a child
by two mothers and threatened to cut the baby in
half to bring us to our senses. That’s a good story, though. If we cut
Holy Land in half or if neither side will bend to essential
concessions that allow us all life, will we totally destroy the land we
we love? This is the question Israeli and Palestinian
youths of this generation must decide before our elders decide for us
set us up for impossible futures.
I grew up believing that every person belongs to the place where he or
was born. I know that few Americans understand
the intensity of this belief. Most Americans, like most Israelis, came
immigrant populations. They fled oppression willing to
make the most of a new land while packing their old world far away in
memories. For us, however, maintenance of our
property is not only a right but also a duty. Sometimes staying rather
going is a painful option, but remaining, keeping a
family together and caring for our land is as much a part of our
personality as moving from place to place is for
Americans. I do not mean to sound xenophobic. I’m not suggesting that
land should be closed to those who come in the
hope of living in harmony with us. It’s just that whether through my
or environmental heritage I cannot help resist
expulsion and displacement any more than Americans choose to move
yon, where their careers take them,
regardless of family left behind.
Of course, human expulsion and takeovers have occurred time and time
throughout history. Revisionist Zionist
Jabotinsky spoke of it back in 1923, as the Holocaust began to loom and
events were brewing that would, finally, give
credence, imagined or real, to Zionist demands. Does that make it right
allow Israel to continue to harm us, to modernize the
punitive concept of winner-take-all, or to dispel indigenous people
only crime is to be where they are? Are Zionists and
religious zealots still so determined that they can only act upon the
that might-makes-right, even if that means the death of
us all? Are all those living here today like the helpless baby Solomon
threatened to destroy until the true mother
spoke up? Here are 72 students willing to speak. I want to join them.
What do I ask in terms of giving up my end of the struggle? I ask you,
Jewish people of Israel and you Zionist supporters in
America, to do to us as you have asked the rest of the world to do to
If Zionists living in Israel or elsewhere demand
compensation for the rights, land and money lost in the Holocaust, I
reparation for rights, land and money lost in our
Catastrophe started in 1948 and continued with a vengeance in 1967 and
still continuing. There are too many human beings
on both sides of this conflict to unilaterally reject a win-win
It’s difficult for any of us to admit the wrongs of our ancestors and
to feel guilty for wrongs committed before our
individual births, but we can quite easily not repeat what we know to
been wrong. Those who pay attention to this war of
ours and theirs and to the human rights struggles all over the globe
that real freedom is possible only when multinational,
multi-religious and multiethnic acceptance is a reality. I say to you
students, only a few years younger than I, “Help manage
this land of ours, not destroy it. Keep responding to the wrong so that
land becomes a haven in which all people, men and
women, Muslim, Christian or Jew, former citizens of other countries who
and those of us born here, have a voice, a vote,
in what happens next. I call for my people’s freedom to return and for
releasing all the Palestinian political prisoners who paid
with long years of their lives as a price for freedom. We may not be
reverse the past, but we have it in
our power to serve all the people who are here now.
As for concessions, consider that 30% of 20% of the land taken from us
through the mandate of those who did not own our
land in the first place is not satisfactory. Expecting more compromise
us when settlement building continues to secretly and
publicly expand is not reasonable. The arrogance of “allowing” us
Palestinians to have our own State on land where we’ve lived
long before the arrival of Zionists is not the word of those who
themselves to a genuine wish for peace. Expecting
Gazans, many who lost their livelihoods when Israelis seized their
work for “Israeli masters” for substandard wages and
no chance of reeducation or advancement with which to aid their
and starving families is wrong. Forcing proud Gazan
men to come and go through prison thoroughfares is neither compromising
wise. That the people of Gaza and the West
Bank have undergone such crushing intimidation shows, indeed, the kind
oppression you, Israelis, have put us
into, again and again.
Let’s look at the words everyone is hearing now and how we Palestinians
them. Terrorism, the catchall word for evil
today, can come from a State as well as an individual. Who knows that
than you—the 72 Israeli high school
seniors—and us—the people of occupied Palestine? Propaganda is
a negatively prejudiced word if applied to
Zionist techniques, but a standard reaction to anything good said about
Judeo-Christian is the connection that binds America
to Zion, but in truth there are three great Abrahamic religions. All
of these religions propose the idea that we must care
about each other as much as we care about ourselves. All three
have unique ways of expressing themselves, but all
share a common view of God as one entity. All three subscribe to a
nonpartisan human relationship to God and to human
responsibility for stewardship of a shared earth. Isn’t it time for us
always say, “Judeo, Christian, Muslim” instead of
denying our commonality? Whether we have become secular or remain
we’ve all learned, one way or another, about
truth and justice as taught by Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. I
the future, yet, my hope persists, buoyed by the
letter from 72 Israeli high school seniors. It is time for all of us
want happy and productive lives to reject the lies our
governments or religious institutions teach through curricula construed
make the other side look evil. Isn’t it up to us to
demonstrate to the warlords that evil is neither comprehensive nor
is it possible that our leaders have not
experienced evil and good together in all the trivia of life, as well
discoveries of science? Mankind should have gotten that
point when fire was discovered and that was a long time ago. If our
choose not to see truth or continue to selfishly
insulate themselves from what they know about wrong, then we, the youth
the region, must take control of our own
destinies and make our own choices about our own futures. You 72 youths
to end occupation. We young Palestinians do
as well. It’s up to you and to us to stop violence committed by
or military tank in the name of government. If we hope
to carry on without unbearable shame, we must seek freedom from what
been and reach out for what can be. You cannot
continue to live amid endless political conflict, fearful that every
of some branch of the Israeli government or some Zionist
zealot will lead to renewed violence and potentially your death.
ask you, the financial aid sent from American friends
who say they want a promised land, but not enough to come live with you
your distress. We Palestinians cannot continue to
live in the unnatural phenomenon of occupation amid the anger and
of concessions unwillingly made to a government
who simply does not care about us no matter what we give up.
You are a beginning for me. Are you willing to live in harmony with me
other Palestinian youths here in this land of red
earth, cacti, olive trees and orange groves and, yes, computers and
technology that has nothing to do with weapons of mass
destruction? You are not the zealots who come eager to transgress upon
that you can transcend the marvels of our
wonderful earth in favour of heaven. You give me hope. When can we get
|Re: Jerusalem Journals|
|04/23/02 at 15:45:45|
Website full of day by day journals of Americans living in Palestine.
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board