Spring is here
Originally written 4/9/04, updated 4/16/06
What struck me most about the coming of Spring is how humans miss the goodness in life. We are by nature a worrying species. Our faith is shaken by events (like the continuing occupation and colonization, the violence etc). Many worry about all sorts of things. Being worried is useful to a point. It is useful to let us keep striving to improve. But worry can also descend to pessimism and this can lead to inaction. Active and productive people are by definition optimistic that they can make a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of those around them.
For dispossessed people, these issues carry special significance. Nine million Palestinians live today as refugees/doisplaced people (5 million), occupied and being walled in (3.5 million Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza; 70% unemployed now), or as 10th class citizens in their own lands (1.2 million Palestiinians with Israeli nominal Citizenship).
I am a Palestinian American. I was fortunate enough to come to America, receive a great education, get citizenship based on merit and accomplishments, and so far have chosen to make my life here in Connecticut. I have lived in the US since 1979 but travel frequently abroad including a number of trips and short stays in occupied Palestine. I believe all Palestinians in the diaspora like me think daily of Palestine and of family and friends. The inseparable bond that exists connecting us to lands we come from is more than a birthmark, it is more like a physical handicap except in a good sense: you do not forget it is there and yet you learn to live with it. I never felt more acutely aware of this than on days like when my father died or my uncle Nasri died. They were both at one point my school teachers (science and math respectively). The last time I saw my uncle was at the funeral of my father in October, 2003. What is imprinted in my memory is the image of his frail, sad, ageing face which produced tears that I never saw from this strong and reslient man before. Now his body joins three other of his brothers and ancestors going back to time immemorial in a row of stone and concrete tombs in the village of Beit Sahour. Such are the times that I feel both sadness and the shiver of my need to be back with these people to share their suffering under occupation and oppression. Such is the time that I shudder to think that I may die four thousand miles away from my brothers, sisters, and cousins. Away from my people.
The friendship and support of hundreds in the US (my second home) does help and it balances the animosity of the rabid attackers who target us for our political activism for human rights. While enriched by different cultures we undergo stresses of trying to reconcile the experiences of living in two worlds. We lived in two words physically and now we live it emotionally and intellectually.
As Palestinians are killed and injured daily (news we get NOT from US mainstream media which by contrast is quick to report Israeli deaths), yearnings and passion grow. As we age, we try to not lose the only connection to our youth we can retain: our idealism. Some do indeed lose it and become cynical of all things. Palestinians, abandoned by many to face the most sophisticated and brutal aspects of the Zionsit colonial project, especially feel the pressure to give up. Some indeed do. Yet it is remarkable that after nearly a century of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, oppression, murder, and basically attempts at destroying their society and culture; despite all of that Palestine and Palestinians remain steadfast. They cling to their humanity and they work optimistically for a better future. Despite all the propaganda you hear you know in your heart that Palestinians, like native Americans, like blacks in South Africa, like Algerians under French colonialism, like Vietnamese, will become free by their own hands. No one will liberate us but ourselves. The struggle for freedom has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. The struggle slowed down the Zionist project to a crawl; I even venture to say it stopped it now in its tracks. Zionists are not now talking about Greater Land of Israel “the Euphrates to the Nile” and many Zionists have even reconciled themselves to impossibility of finishing the “cleansing” of Palestine (from the Jordan to the Mediterranean). Some Zionists (Barak, Sharon) talk about a “state” for the Palestinians in a tiny part of Palestine. This is the Palustan plan (equivalent to the Bantustans created under apartheid South Africa to corner blacks into large open air prisons).
I live in America and my struggle is in America. Here, there has been a relentless program to “Zionify” America. An Israeli commentator called it the Israelization of America. The symptoms of this condition include:
- US Taxpayers fork over $5 billion per year to support Israel
- US foreign policy at all levels is directed not by US public interests but interests of Israeli lobbies (like AIPAC and ADL) who pushed for war on Iraq and now push for attacks on Iran. At the UN, the US stands alone in defending an indefernsible Israel (or sometimes joined by Micronesia and the Marshal Islands, US protectorates).
- Governments seeking to curry favor with Washington know they need to first be on good terms with Israel
- There are hardly any questions being raised about our flawed US foreign policy that caused the deaths of many Americans and many, many more folds of people in other countries.
- Instead the US military is busy extending these follies to protect Israel’s backyard (hence our war on Afghanistan and Iraq and our threats to Syria and Iran). As many have pointed out, our violation of the UN charter by attacking Iraq will increase attacks on us and will get us mired in the quick sands of Iraq for years to come. The events in the last few days prove this.
I could go on but you see why we, Palestinians who are US citizens, find it very painful to watch the occupation of our first homeland extend to the de facto occupation of our second homeland (America). Congress has in effect become Israeli occupied territory. So has the major media conglomerates. So what is one to do. I would say, that concomitant with Israelization of the power structures in America has been the Palestinization of many people in America. One sign carried at an anti-War rally recently simply said: We are all Palestinians. We collectively are People of color in America, immigrants, the unemployed, those 45 million without healthcare, teachers struggling to make ends meet, Muslim and Arab Americans reeling from the roll-back of constitutional protections, those targeted by the incredibly anti-Democratic “PATRIOT” act. We are all becoming Palestinians. We get pushed outside of the corporate halls of power, are impoverished and taxed to support a military industrial complex that is in its last frantic efforts to hold on to power. So we resist occupations at home and abroad and th e powers to be resport to lies, distortions and other methods. History shows that indeed such elite rulers and special interests overextend their reach and end-up losers (Roman Empire, Spanish Empire etc).
With love for all, hatred not of "the bad guys" but of the bad deeds, and energized by the gathering rays of activism, we grow flowers and fruits of humanity. That is the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday and of all religious traditions based on hope and justice (not fear and tribalism).