Archive for June, 2010

In Praise of Gettin’ Political

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Art project by 10 y/o Palestinian student in Shatila camp. The accompanying text reads: "This is a girl and all around her is blood. It's falling because she was hit by a bullet. She is from Palestine."

My dad doesn’t like me talking about politics online, but sometimes things are beyond evading for fear of some “bad guy” spying my itty bitty blog! Sorry, baba! The recent events of the Israeli flotilla raid is something we all should be talking about, writing about, seriously thinking about in terms of the future. And not just those of us in the region; actually, especially not only those in this region, but those who are paying for the crimes against humanity in Gaza and the occupied territories, with their tax dollars — the “conservative” figure being 114 billion dollars since 1948. That’s us, Americans.

Last week, about a month after the flotilla incidents, I sat in my friend’s condo in Oak Park, the Chicago neighborhood which was home to Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway. I asked him if he had heard anything about the flotilla raid; I wanted to know his thoughts. He’s a hardcore liberal, but also one to be fair. And he’s surely not one to believe in the disappearance of Israel; but he’s sure that the oppression of the Palestinians is appalling. “I heard something… but it wasn’t really covered here,” he told me. This echoed another news-conscientious friend’s question, “What are you talking about?” in response to a Facebook comment I made at the time of the raid: “When will THEY be known as terrorists?”

The raid dominated news in the Middle East and papers across Europe – and Facebook walls and television interviews across the world. However, not even one of my American friends posted anything on Facebook in regard to the raid while this was the contrary for my Middle East friends’ wall pages. In the U.S., as far as I can see, the only person still talking about this issue in a meaningful way is Charlie Rose, having hosted Joe Biden, Tony Blair, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and most recently the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his show. But Charlie Rose is not “mainstream”; what is mainstream can only talk about the other side being “terrorists,” and today the easy label for that is “Hamas” – which is certainly not representative of all the Gazans.

My Chicago friend, on her village in Gaza, after 10 years of leaving:

When I go back, I cover up. But, I don’t care, they can wrap me in foil! But I can’t say what I want! Because if I do, the next thing you know I become a prostitute or I cheated on my husband. I cannot be who I want to be there. When I go back, I feel like I’m going back to Iran, I cannot take it – not as long as Hamas is there… but, at least I have amazing memories.

But the flotilla incident was not about Hamas. This was a fleet of ships coming from Turkey, an Israeli ally, filled with tons of aid, literally TONS of aid, to Gaza, including building materials which, among many other items, are denied to Gazans by the Israelis. To say that Israel has a right to their security, and therefore to raid the flotilla and kill 9 innocent activists on board because Hamas launched 3,000 rockets into Israel last year (see Biden interview) is not only sustaining Israel’s narrative which too often highlights its “right to defend itself” (esp. when being criticized for brutal and disproportionate force against their enemies) but also clearly avoiding the real issues – the attack occurred in international waters, 9 (unarmed) people were shot a total of 30 times, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the slow genocide of a people. The flotilla came with a humanitarian cause, not a terrorist one. And who are we as Americans if we continue to be dispassionate about a humanitarian crisis that our government maintains with political “correctness” and billions of dollars? And know, this humanitarian crisis is much closer to home than it seems.

I couldn’t be upset with my friend that he hadn’t investigated further when he had only heard “something” about it. I had been the same only a few years ago – before I came to the Middle East and sat with Palestinian activists from around the world; before I heard the stories of Palestinians who worked the same jobs as their Lebanese counterparts but were paid half; before I walked the filthy potholed streets of a Palestinian camp where children’s nighttime dreams are finger-painted into nightmarish images; before I met people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, and religions who make daily decisions based on their belief in the rights and justice for Palestinians; before my family name became relevant; before living in a land that suffered murder and conflict with the Palestinians during the civil war, but could still have sympathy and empathy for and with them; before I lived in a region whose major problems lie in the Palestinian/Israeli issue. Before all of this, I saw Palestine/Israel most simply as the never-ending problem that the American government needed to find a solution for, but whose major problem was the terrorist elements and lack of “agreement.”

And I feel ashamed for not having dug deeper.

South Lebanon. Palestine/Israel in the distance.

Here are a few links to deeper/further/other perspectives on news coverage on Palestine/Israel:

In the news today:

New York Times: “Israeli Rules Out Palestinian State by 2012

The Guardian: “Palestinian boycott of Israeli settlement goods starts to bite

Electronic Intifada: “PA Undermines UN Probe

The Jeruselum Post: “50% of Israelis Blame IHH

Haaretz: “Judge leading Gaza flotilla probe threatens to quit unless granted wider powers

“We Are All for the Nation”

Monday, June 14th, 2010

As the World Cup is underway, black, red, and yellow stripe the streets of Beirut as German flags wave in the center of intersections, from balconies, and out of car windows (often from all four). Their reproductions flip-flop underneath rearview mirrors and wrap snugly around Lebanese wrists. I asked a German acquaintance who was visiting Beirut if Berlin looked the same, rippling with flags. He sounded startled: “I haven’t seen any flags in Berlin for the Cup… Germans are too proud to raise flags.”

While we in Lebanon aren’t too proud, we have funny allegiances. As a taxi driver said recently, as we passed under a German flag that stretched from one side of the street to the other,  “If only the Lebanese loved their country as much…”

Here is some explanation for the Germans’ hesitation to raise their flags in their country. I found this some time after this post:  “German World Cup Patriotism Still Touchy Issue

Here is a recent analysis of the World Cup craze in Lebanon at the Beirut based blog The Long Slumber.