Edna Yaghi’s Column
“The sight of a child raising hands in front of the machine gun toting thug grieves us only if it is a Jewish child. The Gentile child can be shot at freely.” Israel Shamir
Let’s get one thing straight from the start. I am neither of Palestinian origin nor from Arab descent. I am an American citizen whose father served in WWll and whose brother served in Vietnam.
I grew up with the idea that all men are created equal and that all are entitled to the same inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Such great American movies like “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” have always inspired me for they symbolize man’s quest for freedom. Both these movies were about courageous men who fought for the liberty of their countrymen and fought against the oppression of the despots that ruled them.
Our own forefathers fought with dauntless determination to free the colonists from unfair taxes and no representation and to liberate America from foreign domination and British rule. Our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, was an eloquent proclamation of our independence from Great Britain. Many colonists fearlessly gave their lives so that they could guarantee independence from British rule forever.
A little later in our history, Americans fought the Civil War to free the slaves. We freed them on paper, but it was not until the Civil Rights movement when such people as Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, because she dared to disobey a segregation law in Montgomery, Alabama that required her to give up her seat on a bust to a white person, that Americans began to free Afro-Americans in reality.
In 1961 Freedom Riders, both black and white, traveled around the South in buses to test the effectiveness of desegregation of interstate bus stations. The Freedom Riders did desegregate some bus stations, but even more importantly, they demonstrated how far civil rights workers would go to achieve their goals and to resist the violence of those who opposed them.
And though we Americans have not always been initially fair to our native Indians or to the Afro-Americans, much has been done throughout our history to redress the wrongs that we committed. Today, America is a democracy for all its citizens regardless of ethnic affiliations.
How then, can we as Americans, dedicated to the ideals of freedom and democracy be so biased when it comes to what is happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Until 1948, Palestine was Palestinian and had been Palestinian for 2000 years. But after World War ll, aided by Zionists and the guilty conscience of the British and Americans, European Jews began a massive migration to Palestine. By use of force, terror and massacres such as Deir Yessin where a whole Palestinian village of unarmed civilians was wiped out by Jewish terror groups like the Haganah, Irgun and Stern gangs, the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine were thus liquated or driven out to other parts of Palestine or to neighboring Arab countries. Today, there are about 8 million Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian Diaspora, waiting to return to their homes.
The fact that Jews were persecuted in Europe and elsewhere is not the fault of the Palestinians and they should not have to pay for the crimes of others, nor should they be evicted from their own land by some of the very people who suffered persecution elsewhere. Prior to 1948, Arabs and Jews were living together peacefully in Palestine.
Throughout our American media, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is made to look generous when he offers to share the remaining 22% of original Palestine with the Palestinian people. The Palestinians are made to look violent and ungrateful when they rise up to protest against the tyranny and oppression from which they suffer. We label Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists but we call William Wallace a hero. We also revere men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin because they dared to speak out and fight against the people who were oppressing them.
When we see a Palestinian child courageously throwing a stone at heavily armed Israeli soldiers, we fail the see the magnitude of what is really happening. This child is fighting for the freedom of his people and against brutality and extreme suppression just as our American forefathers did. He is the infant Palestinian David throwing stones at the Israeli Goliath. Take a look at the casualties. The majority of dead and injured are Palestinian not Israeli. Israeli soldiers shoot to kill and aim at the heads and hearts of children. How can we witness such atrocities and not feel guilt or compassion? Our blind support of the Israelis refutes human logic beyond recognition.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, America led the Allied forces in a brutal bombing campaign that claimed millions of lives. How then can we justify the occupation of Palestinian land and the eviction of Palestinians from their homes by Jewish outsiders? How many Palestinian children must die before we realize that something is dreadfully wrong? How many Palestinian homes must be bulldozed by Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers and how many Palestinian olive trees must be uprooted before we begin to wonder just who the real terrorists are?
The Palestinians have the right to live on their own land in peace. The refugees living in the Palestinian Diaspora should have the option of whether to return or not to their land and homes that were taken away from them by force.
For now, what is left of Palestine is under siege. The West Bank and Gaza are not just two isolated islands, but two huge concentration camps full of a people who have suffered enough. There can only be peace in the Middle East when there is a just, equitable and comprehensive solution to the plight of the Palestinians.
We must question the past and appeal to reason. To remain silent or to isolate ourselves from the truth is our moral failing. We must understand that what is happening in Palestine right now, today, is a moral, a social and a political wrong. It is about time that Americans search their hearts and souls about what is happening to the Palestinian people. They are a noble people. They are the sons and daughters of liberty and they deserve a fair deal for a change.
Allow me to leave you with the words of the great Israeli writer, Israel Shamir when he wrote, “We can choose the way of Nineveh, to repent, to return the stolen property, to give full equality to the Gentiles, to stop discrimination and murder, and hope to be forgiven by God, if not for our sake, then for the sake of our cats and dogs. We can persist in our evil ways as the people of Sodom and wait for the flood of fire and burning sulphur from the angry heavens of Palestine.”
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