Palestinians are dying for relative calm

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Palestine, Russia Views: 1393
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The baby died, naked, on a wooden table. Her only exposure to the idyllic language of her ancestors arose from memories of prenatal calm. In life, she lived and died hearing only the peculiar vocabulary of her mother's unacknowledged screams.

The child was delivered into adulthood. She learned, before her mother cleaned the mucus from her mouth with a bloody pinky finger, that her appearance was unwanted. She was born a refugee. She was born in isolation. She was born poor. She was born placeless. She was born premature but proud: she was born Palestinian.

I will never forget when my friend recounted her baby's life story over acrid cups of Arabic coffee in the sultry heat of Shatila, Lebanon. My friend went into labor two months early. Her family, like most Palestinians in Lebanon, had no insurance. She was turned away at four hospitals before a public facility agreed to admit her. The agreement didn't extend to providing care, however.

My friend screamed all night for a doctor or nurse. She delivered her baby alone. She then pleaded for somebody to bring oxygen. Nobody came. The baby died after a few hours. Her marbled body was placed on an unadorned wooden table. Her mother stopped yelling. The hospital returned to its preferred atmosphere of relative calm.

I always remember this story when the phrase "relative calm" is used to describe the Middle East. Those of us in the United States who haven't succumbed to the racism and treachery that define modern Zionism know that "relative calm" means Palestinian civilians are being slaughtered in the absence of the suicide bombings that Israel invokes to justify its 36-year occupation.

The story, in its own tragic way, exemplifies the modern Palestinian condition, where those under occupation aspire to avoid relative calm and many in exile live without human rights because relative calm is an aspiration to which Palestinians will never succumb. Too many Palestinians have stories as dreadful as what I was told by my friend in Shatila. This is the price Palestinians must pay for the comfort of their oppressors.

Unfortunately, a period of "relative calm" recently predominated in the Middle East. From early August to mid-September there were no suicide bombings; there was therefore little coverage of events in Palestine. More unfortunate, though, is the fact that the relative calm so passively mentioned in the American media was in fact a fierce and destructive period. It simply wasn't newsworthy because Israel unleashed the fierceness and destruction (in addition, of course, to the horror that perpetually characterizes its illegal occupation).

Numerous assumptions can be drawn from this situation, none more disgusting than the glaring hypocrisy and racism that typify the process of selecting and presenting information in the American media. During the golden era of relative calm, over 70 Palestinians were murdered, all civilian, many children. Israeli soldiers detonated two bombs in a secondary school in Gaza. Settlers - as always, under the watchful eye of the IDF - burned crops and seized land belonging to Palestinian farmers. None of it provoked the breaking news coverage elicited by last week's suicide bomber. Most of it went unmentioned. It is clear whose lives and livelihoods are important to American editors. Their selectivity has long been the defining feature of Apartheid.

So next time you hear an American news agency explain that the Middle East is experiencing a period of relative calm, it is useful to know what is really happening: Israeli occupation soldiers are harassing, arresting, and murdering civilians; Israeli bulldozers are destroying houses; Israeli settlers are beating children with crowbars and rifle butts - all because Ariel Sharon is approving new settlement plans, the very cause of this miserable and seemingly endless conflict.

During the next stretch of relative calm, it is useful to know that Israel is engaging in the behavior that has rightfully earned it international condemnation: arbitrary curfew, forced starvation, economic strangulation, legalized torture, mass arrest, judicial deceit, land expropriation, settlement construction, crop demolition, and home destruction.

More than anything, it is useful to know that, in the interests of political expedience, the American media ignore a situation that meets all the criteria for segregation and ethnic cleansing. At times, it is not the actual reportage that merits condemnation, for a suicide bombing is certainly worth attention. It is what goes unreported that constitutes the shame of our nation.

When I hear about relative calm in the Middle East, I remember the four-year-old boy I met last year in the West Bank al-Khader Village. He stared at me calmly but not lifelessly, for he carried all the markings of war in his brown glass eye. His left eye had been punctured by a soldier's bullet while he stood on his balcony. His grandmother described to us the pulpous red liquid that dripped down his face after he was shot, the official Israeli inquiry that absolved the soldiers of wrongdoing, the tears covering her grandson's right cheek when doctors fitted him with a phony eye.

I left the child in relative calm that afternoon. He has known nothing else in his short life. He told me as much when I saw the glassy hue of his pupil reflect into a cloudless sky.

There are connections to be made between al-Khader and Shatila, just as there are connections to be made among Israel and Euro-American settlers, South African Apartheidists, and southern American segregationists. The most powerful connection is also the simplest: We should dispute the phrase "relative calm" not solely on a political and factual basis, although politics and factual suppression are certainly at play in its usage.

We should dispute it on a humanistic basis. Palestinians aren't relative. Their lives shouldn't be defined in relation to the well being of their oppressors. Palestinians are a hardworking and brilliant people, and anybody who has spent time in Palestine knows that their humanity stands on its own. They will exercise and experience calm only when they are offered real freedom.

They will contest the horror of relative calm until history castigates the purveyors of mass graves and murdered children.

There is a dead baby stretched out on a wooden table in Lebanon. There is a small child whose face was deformed by a soldier's bullet in al-Khader. Let us hope that she will provide him with her eyesight so he can cast his vision across our ignorance and condemn, with searing precision, the relative calm inherent in our reaction to ethnic cleansing.


Steven Salaita is completing an English doctorate at the University of Oklahoma, with emphasis on Native, Palestinian, and Arab American literatures. A West Virginian with Palestinian and Jordanian parents, he splits his time between the United States and the Middle East. This article appeared on YellowTimes.org.


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Palestine, Russia
Views: 1393

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Older Comments:
CORINNA JORDAN FROM AMERICA (VERMONT) said:
Thank you for this opportunity for knowledgeand understanding. How, do you think, can we help achieve peace and prosperity in that part of Earth?
2002-10-13

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Wa-Alaikum Asalaam brother Ahmad.

I stand corrected. The West Bank was indeed but one section of Palestine - prior to the various U.N. resolutions (etc.) recognizing Israel (and so on).

I learned (Alhamdulliah!) this area was annexed by Jordan in 1950. Clearly, the proper action would be restoring control of this area to the Palestinians.

I deeply appreciate your efforts to provide me with references to Ayat (verses) from the Holy Quran. I will study those Ayat (and their related context) carefully, Insha'Allah. Also, I am still maintaining my very recent commitment to helping Palestinians in trouble - and will continue to maintain it, Insha'Allah.

In case I don't have an opportunity to follow up, after having taken some time to reflect on what Allah (swt) has enabled me to learn, I assume there are residents of Israel who deserve my compassion, regardless of their individual right to reside that country and regardless of the name by which Allah (swt) wills us to call that country. Insha'Allah the righteous will prevail. Insha'Allah I will serve the causes of the righteous.

I expect I will continue to expect those who work for the Devil seldom realize for whom they are working. When such threats as people perceive to themselves would later appear to abate, it would appear that the people themselves prefer to sleep - rather than ponder the reasons for which they were threatened in the first place.

I would say that the type of situation described above is very much the case with "9/11" and the related attacks on my own country. We issue our response and extract our price but leave the business itself unfinished. Of course, I expect "9/11" had more to do with the cause of those who committed suicide than with anyone else's cause.

May it be the will of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) that we be guided correctly. May we also always remember to express our gratitude to Allah (swt) for having received correct guidance. Subhaan-Allah!

Jaz
2002-10-05

MUSLIMAH said:
Assalamu Alaikum

To those who want to help Muslim around the world. Here is the organization Islamic Relief, its website is www.irw.org.

2002-10-04

~SUSAN~ FROM USA said:
RE: HALIM Aziz Post .#6655 I am sorry you feel this way and especially that Cutting down on Coca Cola will be the way to stop American domination ...

First I want to say that you come from a small country that maybe 2,000 would seem a small number in one place ...

I must assure you that there are over 300,000 square miles in these here states and Washington DC is one very tiny area in the middle of the East Coast ...

There are 3,000 miles to the opposite coast (west ,California) and 800 or more miles either way on the East coast before you reach water or another country..

Not all people have days off the same, a lot of people work 2 Jobs or more to make ends meet... Everyone in the States does not own a car and not even people who live well can afford to fly off for a day or two to another State (this would be the equivalent of you packing for two days vacation in Saudi Arabia or UAE)

All of this does not even add up to the fact that DC is not the only place in America people are gathering in protest nor the only way people are protesting what is happening in Israel and the rest of the Arab world right now...

COCA COLA Be Damned ... it's Bad for your teeth anyway ...
Protest that your own Country and Govt do something to put pressure on the American Govt to look at why there is so much support by it for the Israeli...
2002-10-04

~SUSAN~ FROM USA said:
May God rest her soul and allow her mother Peace knowing she is with him...

In "Relative Calm" we cry ...



2002-10-04

SISTER said:
Lebanon and other countries where Muslims are a majority should look after there fellow Muslims regardless of nationalism. The hospital was heartless, as is the government that allows this to happen. No use blaming Jews for Arab laziness.
Of course Izreal should get their butts kicked too.
2002-10-03

ELAINE LAUREL FROM AUSTRALIA said:
I often get so caught up in the petty grievenaces of my life, that i find myself turning an unintendedly blind-eye to the goings- on around the world.
The plight of the Palestinians is just one heart-wrenching example.
I am a Roman Catholic currently studying the beauty of Islam, so as to revert to what i find more and more to be the 'truth'. And, as moved as i am by the Palestinian people, i am simoultaneously inspired by their faith & complete surrender to what God willed for them.
I cannot even begin to fathom a life that brought the sounds of war & the smell of fear & death to every waking day.
I am led to be inspired by the courage that they have drawn from there avid belief in God. I too, love & fear God. However, i find that i am afraid that themy lack of faith in the Catholic Church would not ever allow me to endure what Palestine suffers everyday.
I find myself drawing strength from the thought that Islam's love and trust in God is what brings these people to live & breath with such humble endurance.
People like those in the American government that fuel Israel's hate by means of their own greed and hunger for personal gain - need only open their eyes & seek empathy.
Those people in their comfy 'positions of power' will one day realise that the power was never theirs! Knowledge is power! And, Palestine is powerful!
Within the people of Palestine is a seed.Watered such understanding & acceptance, that seed is garaunteed only blossom into an absolute trust and faith in God. They are not afraid to live their lives because they know that in death lies the opportunity of God's rewards.
These so called 'powerful' people that are comforted by their own false sense of strength, will realise only seconds too late - that the victory & power that they feel will never measure up to the power of the strength in Palestinian hearts!

2002-10-03

AHMAD FROM U.S. said:
Salaam Alaikum brother Yahya.

First of all, masjid Al-Aqsa and the homes of the Palestinians are not Jordan's property or ANYONES to give away to Israel. Every Muslim must understand this basic fact. Second of all, in response to TRYING to deal with the devil(Israel) read sura 2,ayat 216 and sura 4, ayats 75-76. That tells us what our DUTY is towards oppresors and usurpers.

2002-10-03

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Astagh Ferullah! I forgot I can pay ZAKAT for those as described by the author - who will not or are otherwise unable to seek refuge elsewhere. I shall seek a way to put at least some help into their hands, Insha'Allah. Jazak Allah, Brother Ahmad, for bringing about my thoughts on those who are to remain in such circumstances as described in this article. Also, Alhamd'Lillah - for the article itself, the author and the sites where it is published. If anyone knows of ways to directly help those in suffering, please let me know. I am not sure what is needed - but I am inclined to put the help directly into the hands of the suffering when possible. Jazak Allah Khair.
([email protected])
2002-10-01

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Wa-alaikum Asalaam - Brother Ahmad, the only way I can honestly answer your question is by answering yes. I understand that many seem to be encouraging the oppressed to fight their oppressors. I understand that but my honest preference would be to have those, such as Palestinians, currently denied access to Palestine to at least reside in my country for as long as they want to.

The Zionists have endangered their "own kind" numerous times in the last century - in pursuit of their particular vision. They worked to prevent the immigration to America of European Jews attempting to escape Hitler. The conducted a terror campaign against the Jewish community in Iraq - to persuade over 100,000 of them to "take flight" to safety in Israel.

The Zionists don't care about the lives of faceless individuals (either Jewish or Palestinian) so long as the loss of life has somehow furthered the Zionist cause. The Zionists want to push Jews into the lands that comprise the "manifest destiny" of Zion - and push everyone else in the lands out. They don't care what happens to the vanquished - they just want the vanquished gone. If the troublesome crys for compassion, especially such appeals made by Jews, can be appeased by clearing out the refuge camps of the Middle East - by coercing my government to receive them - it would cost the Zionists virtually nothing as far I can see.

Please know that my objective is not to discourage those who would fight to retain or recover their own lands. My problem is that, unlike those who have a stake in the numerous lands coveted by the Zionists, I don't feel right encouraging someone to stand their ground and possibly sacrifice themselves for an admittedly just cause. What I do feel right about is encouraging them to make Shahada frequently and to place their trust in Allah. Beyond that, I would sincerely invite them (and yourself) to live here in my own community. Allah Hafiz.
2002-10-01

MUHAMMAD BABA SHERIF FROM A LIBERIAN NATIONAL NOW IN PHILADELPHIA, PA. said:
The only comment I have is "May Allah protect and guide you in all of your endeavors especially your in your Doctorate program.
Your article only shows the hypocrisy of the West, but also gave assurance that the truth will one day prevail. May Allah bless and guide the helpless people of palestine and those good-will Israelis who abhor the actions of their people.

Wasalaam.
M. B. Sheif
2002-10-01

AHMAD FROM U.S. said:
Asalaam Alaikum.

Brother Yahya, what are you saying? You want Palestinians to negotiate with the Devil? Arafat tried to do that, and look what it got him. Insha Allah more and more of our Palestinian brothers and sisters are realizing that they should trust in Allah and not Israel or the U.S. Trust in Allah by giving your total being to him.
2002-09-30

JASON RADKE FROM USA said:
the zionists are bent on killing off palastinians and taking over their land. their model on how to do this is our own Native- American massacre and displacement. America is also where the Zionist get moral, financial and political support. The average American, being ignorant of foreign policy, is a dupe, a piece on the chess board, not a player. The zionists think for the avarage American, they also control the avarage American politician. Americans feel bad about what happened to the Native American, in time they will olso feel bad about what happened to Palatinians After the fact because Americans have retrospective morals, morals that kick in after a "necessary evil" has been committed. Palastians should not wait for American moral awakening. they should fight to the death because that is where they are headed anyways. they should take down the zionists with them. they will also get support from all that value justice.
2002-09-30

LEYLA FROM USA said:
A.A :It is not America that is the root of the problem,for America inhabits millions of muslims. It is the government.We're most definitely against this America who aids Israel in killing our brothers and sisters. On the other hand, Allah (swt)ordains whatever he wishes to any people,land or country.Concern: In America, I respect the American flag,but I do not praise it! I only praise Allah (swt).As viewed on TV, I feel the need to ask," why are my brothers and sisters wrapped in their country's flag??? Do you praise this flag ? That is the dunyah. Being from Palestine and any other country will not give you any rewards in the hereafter! This mere shirk. Nothing follows them ,but their
deeds.
2002-09-30

HALIM AZIZ FROM MALAYSIA said:
After I read your article my conclusion is with the others.
The American are responsible for every crime
committed by the Israelis.
Their American population also working towards Israelis benefit. CNN report on 27 Sept 2002., only 2000 Americans protest against War in Iraq in Washington DC.
Muslims must start fighting by first stop drinking coca-cola... !
2002-09-30

AYSHA QAZI FROM UNITED STATES said:
Myshallah. I loved the article. So full of feeling. Powerfull enough to see. See clearly. I hope he can continue.. though his words will be daggers for the enemy.
Thanks for the article.
2002-09-30

ZAINAL CABIDEEN FROM CANADA said:
I can say nothing! May Allah heal those harmed by unfeeling fiends. Allah help the oppressed.
2002-09-29

SAIF FROM ENGLAND said:
Did you know?

1 - THAT, when the Palestine Problem was created by Britain in 1917, more than 90% of the population of Palestine were Arabs, and that there were at that time no more than 56,000 Jews in Palestine?

2 - THAT, more than half of the Jews living in Palestine at that time were recent immigrants, who had come to Palestine in the preceding decades in order to escape persecution in Europe?... And that less than 5% of the population of Palestine were native Palestinian Jews?

3 - THAT, the Arabs of Palestine at that time owned 97.5% of the land, while Jews (native Palestinians and recent immigrants together) owned only 2.5% of the land?

4 - THAT, the 1947 recommendation of the General Assembly in favor of the creation of a "Jewish State" was outside the competence of the Assembly under the Charter of the United Nations?

5 - THAT, all attempts by the Arab States and other Asian countries to have the Assembly submit the question of constitutionality" of its recommendation to the International Court of Justice for an "advisory opinion" by the Court were rejected or ignored by the Assembly?

6 - THAT, that original 1947 recommendation to create a "Jewish State" in Palestine was approved, at the first vote, only by European, American and Australian States...for every Asian State, and every African State (with the exception of the Union of South Africa) voted against it?

7 - THAT, Israel is the only country in the Middle East that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and bars international inspections from its sites? (Why not Uncle Sam bomb Israel as they did to Iraq for not letting them inspect?)

8 - THAT, Palestinian refugees make up the largest refugee population in the world?

9 - THAT, The United States awards Israel $3 billion in aid each year, more than to any other country in the world: US aid to Israel exceeds the aid the US grants to the whole sub-Sahara Africa?
2002-09-28

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Astagh Ferullah! I wish Jordan had ceded the West Bank directly to Israel - if the human misery resulting from combined extremist ambitions would have then been alleviated. Before the freedom fighters say "destroy Israel" one more time, could they possibly negotiate with the Zionist terrorists - one more time?

I would very much like to have the Israeli government issue instructions to my government to permit all Palestinians (anywhere in the world and without regard to financial condition or skill level) to immigrate to my country for all Palestinians who might wish to do so. You see, if the Israeli government said "do it" then nothing the isolationists in my country had to say would be of any consequence - other than to distance my country's isolationists from the Israeli government.

The above scenario would naturally further my own agenda (to increase the Muslim population in my country by whatever means possible, while reducing an ominous potential here for "imperial isolationism") and the various extremist groups in the Middle East could of course get back to their particular agendas - with less collateral damage inflicted onto my BELOVED Palestinian BRETHREN, Insha'Allah.
Jazak Allah wa Allah Hafiz.

La illaha ill-Allah. Muhammad ur-Rasool'Allah.
Subhan'Allah. Subhan'Allah.
2002-09-28

RAFATH FROM USA said:
I am numb with extreme pain and sadness. I cannot bear it any more. I will take this pain to my grave.

I have nothing to offer only prayers. Please bear the pain with courage, strength and patience. One day Palestine will shine with honor and dignity. May Allah liberate Palestine soon.
2002-09-28