Is America Heartless?
For the last five weeks I've been reliving a difficult, sobering, and tragic time in my life. The time was the summer of 1982 in Beirut where I was training as a Physician at the American University Hospital. That summer Israel besieged the city from the air, land, and sea. Israel's objective was to drive out the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut at whatever cost. The cost was heavy. Daily indiscriminate bombing with illegal cluster bombs, shelling, and rockets destroyed anything standing or moving.
Even the ambulances carrying the wounded were not spared. Hospitals (except the American Hospital), schools, orphanages, nursing homes, water and electrical plants, airport, docks, roads, agricultural fields and so much more were bombed. If a Palestinian official was suspected of living in a high rise, the whole building would be bombed to rubble killing all civilians inside. Blood painted the city walls and streets.
I'll never forget one night when I was covering the emergency room when a shattered ambulance pulled up with several bloodstained bags. The orderlies carried the small bags and placed them behind the doors that led to the operating rooms and closed the doors so no else could see. I opened the doors and closed them behind me and began to open the bags. What I saw was beyond description. I became faint and nauseated. The orderly told me that these body parts were once seven brothers and sisters ranging in age from two to fourteen. They were playing in the balcony waiting for their parents to return from work when suddenly an Israeli rocket landed on them.
I couldn't control my body convulsions and began to sob. Nothing had prepared me for this. I shut the doors behind me and went out to my room to compose myself and wash up. The tragedy was not over yet. Soon after, I heard a commotion outside of a man asking where were his children were. He was brought to me. I could hardly speak or make sense of it at all. I'm a physician who's lived through two civil wars, but still didn't know what to say. I finally reached out to his shoulders and closed the door. As soon as he sat down he knew something terrible had happened. I began to pray and asked him to remember God.
He wept and said, "They're all dead aren't they?"
All I could do was nod my head yes. He slapped his face and cried loudly for a few minutes, breathing heavily and almost vomiting. I washed his face with cold water. He then surprised me and asked if he could see them. See what, I wondered. There was nothing to see, no recognizable bodies left. He begged me to see them one last time. The emergency room was as usual crowded with dead and injured and loud shouts and screams. It was a small emergency room built for medical education not for a war zone. I took him by the arm and asked the nurse to prepare a Valium injection and to find an empty room. I tried to talk to him, to prepare him, but he couldn't hear me.
His clothes were soaked with tears, water, and sweat. I'll never forget his violent shakes in my arms. I opened the doors, closed them quickly and held him. He knelt over his children and hugged his child's remains to his chest crying and praying. He began to ask what they had done to Israel to deserve this, what have they done to America, and why must they die as innocent children. He wondered what he was going to tell their mother. I had to leave him to tend to other patients. When I came back, he was sitting up holding a part of the smallest child.
He looked at me and said, "Where is the American television to show this, where is the United Nations to see this, where is the world that would question why or how they died? Israel killed them, but it was America's money and weapons behind this, and they wonder why we hate them for what Israel does to us."
I took the body part from him and quickly asked the orderlies to take the bodies downstairs to the morgue. A short while later, a neighbor came by and took him home. I prayed that somehow somewhere someone left in that neighborhood would look after him.
I relate this story because seeing the last five weeks of Arab Satellite Television record the daily massacres of Palestinian children and young adults reminded me of Beirut; a massacre far away from our television sets, our elections, our football, our Thanksgiving dinners. It was a massacre not worthy of our media's or our President's attention. It was a massacre of Palestinian Muslim children, apparently of unimportant meaningless lives.
As long as our media fail to fairly cover the events in Palestine, the American people will never be the wiser, giving Israel the free hand to kill with impunity, freedom, and at will. The media are complicit in these murders? As long as they prevent Palestinian blood from reaching our television sets, all it will do is stir Congress and our President to condemn Arafat and protect our murderous "ally" and even send $450 million in military emergency aid to replenish the bullets lost in Palestinian flesh.
The only discussion about Israel's massacre of these children in our media and our government is that Israel is once again "besieged" by stone throwers who are inherently violent driven by a blood thirsty religion, Islam. Palestinian parents are blamed for not controlling their children and sacrificing them.
Neither George W. Bush nor Al Gore has said a word about the carnage of Palestinian Christians and Muslims at Israel's hand. Is this our future leadership of the world? Zionists in Congress dominate the agenda on Palestine and the Middle East so as to protect the Jewish settlers who terrorize Palestinian families.
America has lost lives, and spent billions of dollars to support Israel, a tiny nation undeserving of our unconditional support. Americans are too dormant, uninformed, and disinterested in anything beyond their personal borders and wallets to care or change their government's position. It's up to the leaders in the Arab and Islamic worlds to take the lead, initiative, and decisions to reassess their relationship with America and to cut all ties with Israel. The time has come for every Arab and Muslim to do what is in their power to collectively awaken the good-hearted American people and to extract a price from Israel for its military arrogance and atrocities.
America nurtured me and loved me as a young man. It taught me courage, fairness, freedom, and independence. It taught me to care for others and to stand up for injustice. I now find myself full of these passions at a time America has been rendered blind. It is as if someone hypnotized this great nation. I wish I could find the cure before its too late for us as a society.
Mohamed Khodr is a physician and freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area.
Topics: Beirut, Lebanon, Occupation