It is becoming exceedingly difficult to tolerate what is going on here these days, and to comprehend the shameful silence of the world in the face of daily massacres and horrors that (for the most part) go unreported in the West. My life is now measured by hourly news reports on various channels (excluding CNN, or the “Voice of Sharon” as we like to call it here) and the safe return from work of my fiancé and my parents, one at a time.
I hear things and see images that make me wonder what it is exactly about Palestinians that has repulsed the world to such an extent as to blind it to the fact that we are the only people still living under a colonial occupation. Are we not pretty enough for the Sex in the City audiences? Or is it just the lazy acceptance of the superficial and stupid Good-Evil dichotomy expressed by a highly insightful and observant leader (ehem) that has found its way into the thought processes of intelligent life. No one says anything when Israel crosses even the most sacred of red lines. Ambulance drivers and paramedics are targeted and killed, or at the very least they are prevented from transporting the injured to hospitals to increase the death toll among the Palestinians. Just yesterday, Israel shot and killed ambulance drivers and targeted, yet again, paramedics trying to save the injured. An ambulance was stolen by Israeli soldiers who then used it to ambush and kill Palestinians in cold blood.
International press cards issued to journalists by the International Federation of Journalists are respected throughout the world. They are meant to provide some protection and facilitate the work of journalists by allowing them to travel to where they need to be. This is not the case here however, because Israel does not recognize the cards and issues its own discriminately. It effectively censors (to the best of its abilities) the news that gets out to the world by denying non-Israeli propagandists its Israeli-issued cards, thereby denying them the freedom of travel to report “where the action is” (in an area where every Palestinian town/village/refugee camp is under siege and is isolated from its surroundings). Reporters are also targets for trigger-happy Israeli soldiers throughout the occupied territories. Even when reporters working for US news agencies (such as CNN and ABC) have been shot by Israeli soldiers, the agencies did not think it worthy to report such incidents.
No one even blinks at the idea that the media deliberately manipulate the news to make Israel look as good as possible even with the harm that does to the agencies’ credibility. This place is like a black-hole of malice and horror on oh-so-many levels. Even when reporters do manage to gather real news, there are “higher-ups” (gods of the media world, if you will) who ultimately decide what actually is and is not. Not many of them particularly want to subject themselves to the wrath of pro-Israeli funders or the endless and misused/abused accusations of anti-Semitism. So there are certain words that are outlawed from the dictionaries of these agencies so that when they absolutely have to report something negative about Israel, it is done in such a way as to require a “double speak”-to-English translator. Gilo, for example, is not a “Jewish neighborhood”, but an illegal, exclusively Jewish settlement on stolen (occupied) Palestinian land. When “blasts” occur in such and such a car in the West Bank, it is not generally because the driver forgot to change the oil. Blasts occur when Israel fires rockets at cars intending to explode them and kill whoever is inside (and whoever is unlucky enough to be close by). “Targeted killings” are in fact assassinations, with all the negative connotations that this word implies. Why is it that when Israel deliberately slaughters 36 Palestinians in one day (and the day is not yet done) it is not called “ethnic cleansing”? Is this part of the ongoing 35-year-old Israeli occupation’s idea of defending itself from its own victims?!
I often wonder if things would be different if the world knew what was really going on. If people could see behind the smoke-screens and expensive PR campaigns that the occupation with all its ills is at the root of this “conflict in the Middle East”, would they do anything about it? I am not convinced. People in the Arab world do listen to non-Western news, and they have relatives here who can give them first hand accounts of the situation, so why are they so quiet? (With the exception of a few Islamic student demonstrations here and there, to which I am grateful as are éI am sure- others who are looking for their niche in this seemingly non-Moslem vs. Moslem world.)
The UN too has been abused by Israel (and endless US vetoes) on more than one level as we know from the never-ending non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions (e.g. 242). In recent days many UN workers have been seriously injured, harassed, and some have been killed, and still the world remains silent. UNRWA schools (set up by the UN to assist Palestinian refugees, whose living conditions are not enviable) have not only been shelled but have also been turned into posts for Israel’s monsters in their bloody incursions into refugee camps all over the placeéhow sad and ironic.
Refugee camps, testaments in and of themselves of Israel’s past and continuing crimes, are now fair game in the eyes of the world because they “breed terrorists”énot one speaker has pointed out how these refugee camps came to be and what the life of a refugee is. The world now has turned into a nonsensical (thanks to W) jumble of words that have no meaning whatsoeveréa cat playing with a ball of yarn may just as well be labeled a terrorist because hey! What the heck! The labels are plentiful and they are free, fit for use even by imbeciles. So the occupation forces kill terrorists: terrorist memories, terrorist stories, terrorist olive trees, terrorist orchards, terrorist streets, terrorist homeséwhatever happened to the concept of legitimate resistance, or self-defense, or the illegality and immorality of occupation? (Or was everyone too busy noticing Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and trying to make Saddam comply with UN resolutions that they overlooked the 35-year-old occupation of the West Bank including east Jerusalem and the Gaza Stripéooops!) How is it that Israel, a country that has repeatedly proved to be at the very least unfriendly to universal ideas of equality and human rights (the only country that remained in support of apartheid South Africa, and whose leaders have a list of war crimes on their resumes longer than the wait at the Qualandia checkpoint) manages to present itself as a “civilized” country, and that it is the “victim” in this conflict?
I think that the following may provide an insight into the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip:
When 30 Israeli tanks roll into your refugee camp intending to wipe out its existence, you:
(a) Wear a stylish suit and appear on TV to add your voice to those calling on Arafat to “end the violence”;
(b) Call 911 (after, of course, dialing the country code to the US);
(c) Go back to bed hoping that they will go away if you ignore them (by the way, this is not an option if Israel claims that you are harboring a terrorist under your bed, as we know all Palestinians are);
(d) Go to your summer home in Florida (if you could only get past the first 16 Israeli checkpoints along the way); or
(e) None of the above.
If people are okay with lawlessness, then why not make it official? Why all the confusing double standards and shaky precedents? If the world does not condemn assassinations (no matter how much the word is manipulated by Israeli spin machines, anyone with a life to lose should be sure that extrajudicial killings are what they are, and are the epitome of lawlessness. If they become [more] customary and are legitimized, your life is not even worth the paper the obituary would be printed on), then why should anyone abide by any law whatsoever? If a passport officially becomes the accepted currency for human life (as casual observation indicates that it is), then the lives of Palestinians to the world are as dispensable as the coins people toss into fountains and wishing wells. (It also seems appropriate to replace the word “Palestinians” here with “Iraqis”, “Africans” etc…).
Why not spell out the reasons for allowing Israel to continue doing what it’s doing? Political leverage is up for sale, so why not just explain this to people rather than delude them into believing that their country is making the world a better place by taking positions based on lofty moral values. As Ms. Clinton clearly demonstrated during her visit to Israel, political prostitution is a more accurate explanation of how one comes out on top, at least temporarily. The policies of countries that are “running the show” are irresponsible and shortsighted, and will inevitably backfire. For example, no matter how steadfast the occupation of the US Congress by Israel is, 5 million Palestinian refugees will not just disappear, so unless the US is looking for an ongoing project in the Middle East, it better start looking out for its own interests which éI am sure this will become clearer as time goes by- will not always be in sync with those of Israel.
Me, I sit at home most of the day listening to the various noises that make up my day (and night) along with other residents of Palestinian towns/villages/refugee camps. I can no longer tell whether the drone plane is still disgracing the skies of Ramallah or whether it is just my ears playing tricks on me (as in the aftereffects of sitting too close to the speakers at a rock concert). Listening to the sound of approaching helicopters/F16s has become a national pastime. One wouldn’t think it that important to track the comings and goings of helicopters/planes, but you’d be surprised at how traumatic the sound of unexpected explosions can be, so we try to be prepared. Even if you close your ears, you can still hear the explosions in your head and stomach. Maybe it is just me expressing these cowardly sentiments at a time when courage and persistence are in order, so I take full responsibility for these sentiments and do not claim to know whether others share the same emotional state I find myself expressing. I will say, however, that it is not uncommon to hear the people you talk to during the day exclaim how tired they are from the lack of sleep or from a restless slumber. The piercing silence of Ramallah nights (when it is not interrupted by explosions) does not go unnoticed and is respected éit seems- even by stray dogs and sirens.
I keep thinking of the part in “The Shawshank Redemption” in which Andy locks himself in the warden’s office and drowns the premises in music to allow the other inmates to feel human/free for a few seconds. It is so simple and uncomplicated and human; I can only hope that at least enough “leaders” will one day soon display such courage and spare us all the usual useless BS.
When I think of what I can do, the only thing I can think of is writing, as it seems I belong to the “intellectual class”, the class that is not meant to die on the streets (even though the streets do not hold exclusive rights to murderéhow many Palestinians have been killed in their own homes or at school?) A few broken windows and an upset stomach do not equal the suffering of the majority of the people here who have it much worseéat least none of my immediate family members or friends has been killed and there is food on the tableéhmmméanyway, when I sit to write, nothing comes out, so I pretend to be writing a letter. Letter-writing does not carry with it the responsibility of diplomacy or the burden of pretending to be objectiveéten thousand thoughts at a time éhardly one of which is complete- angrily flood out, and I begin to write in bold letters “It’s the occupation, stupid“, and then it is time for yet another news report.
(*The content above reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of MIFTAH)