by Samah Jabr
During the horror that
faces us daily on the West Bank, these are some of the interviews
heard on television.
Said one Israeli settler
when asked how he felt about the death of 12-year-old Muhammad
Al-Durra, a Palestinian boy in Gaza. "Our kids are the
kids of God; theirs are the kids of Satan."
[Palestinians] are not humans...they are animals," said another
Jewish settler reflecting on Muhammad Al-Durra's death. "In a
way, those Palestinians aren't even animals. Animals care for their
offspring. Palestinians send their children out to kill or be
Evidently, she did not
know that Muhammad's father had come to usher him away from violence
and to take him as far away from war as possible. It was Israeli
soldiers who turned their guns toward the man and boy, neither of
which had stones or any weapon at all. Perhaps, this settler had not
heard that ambulance driver who came to help the injured was killed
too. These medics did not have stones to throw, but they all had
mothers just like Israeli soldiers and every man, woman or child
killed in this endless catastrophe of ours.
fatalists. They are poor and have too many children. They lack
democracy and peace education. They are willing to send their
children out to riot just to get international attention and
pressure the government of Israel. It is sad that they get killed,
but this is what it takes to stop violence against Israelis,"
said a more moderate, so-called secular Jewish Israeli on
Can you imagine how most
Jewish people in New York City would react if anyone publicly or
even privately said such things about them? Even non-Jews in the
U.S. who welcome those of Jewish faith, but do not agree with
Zionist principles are harshly labeled anti-Semitic. Should a
non-Jewish American dare speak out against the behavior of Israeli
Jews, Jewish rebuttal is swift and harsh. Jobs can be lost,
positions in a community degraded, political careers demolished-all
for a suggestion, a word, or a story that implies a negative about
an Israeli or the State of Israel.
So, most Americans look
away and choose not to see how Israel treats the Palestinians. Most
Americans know little about the Muslim faith anyway. It's easier to
dismiss the Arabs than to search out the truth and possibly face
Jewish reaction. Many Americans do not even know that there are
Christian Arabs or that 'Jihad' more often than not means struggle
within oneself and that both Jews and Arabs are Semitic
It should be stated
clearly that as Palestinians, we do not send our children out to
die. Like every parent around the world, Palestinians want the best
life for their children.
I was a child during the
years of Intifada, 1987 to 1994. I remember how romantic the idea of
running along throwing stone seemed to me then. When I'd see my
friends getting together to demonstrate, I'd have a spontaneous rush
of desire to join in the "fun." Kids everywhere think they
are immortal. At that time, so did we Palestinian kids. None of us
could quite believe that anything would happen to us. But, our
My parents used
everything they could think of to keep me and the other youngsters
in our family inside. They kept us busy studying and doing chores so
that we couldn't go out to throw stones.
Sometimes things get out
of a parent's control. The majority of the children raised in Gaza
or the West Bank after 1948 were denied a decent life by the
Israelis. Many were brought up in poverty with no hope of better
opportunities ahead. Most of our "camp" children's fathers
hung their heads and trudged off to work for substandard wages paid
by the Israelis. These same Israelis made it impossible for the
Palestinians to develop their own professional careers that might
have bolstered the Palestinian economy along with that of Israel.
They kept the Palestinians, even those within Israel, in severe
poverty. They took our water so we could not plant; they closed our
schools, so we could not learn. They made our people slaves and
The boys of the Intifada
saw their parents' humiliation and they became rebellious. They
began to feel that if they had to live as their parents lived,
they'd rather die. The fight against our catastrophe took
precedence over the idea that children should honor their parents
and go with their will. The world should know by now that the most
dangerous people in the world are those who have nothing to live
for. Many young Palestinians fit that category.
For many young
Palestinians, facing down fully armed Israeli soldiers guarantees a
feeling of freedom and power. "If we cannot be equal in
life," someone said to me, "we will be in death. Whether
it's us or them, the dead leave behind a shell and, then, our faith
will bring us a new life."
People from the
Mediterranean area, particularly Arabs, are famous for their sense
of passion and emotion. We are romantic souls with plenty of
sentimental poetry to prove it. We are less prone to wait before we
act, but we are not stupid or violent. We have a strong
appreciation democracy and peace.
Maturity does bring with
it hesitation and suppression of unseemly feeling. We have waited
since 1948 for the Israelis and the world to see what good they have
Sadly, nations seem
blind to what has happened and readily turn away from the reality of
Our kids are angry from
the very depths of their beings. Intellectually and emotionally,
they know very little beyond oppression. They've grown up in refugee
camps, had their homes demolished, seen their fathers and older
brothers taken to jail, some returning so badly beaten, they cannot
walk or speak. Almost every family living in Palestine knows what it
means to work without pay. All the Palestinians have become living
martyrs, and there is no denying it.
No, our stones are not
very effective against Israelis' military might, but our peaceful,
pleading words, prayers, or efforts have not been effective
A couple of days ago, I
knelt beside injured people in the hospital and tried to learn their
stories, their histories.
I asked one middle-aged
woman who was shot in the stomach, "How did this happen? Why
were you on the street?"
"I was protecting
my son," she answered. "Then, you gave birth to your child
twice," I said, "for he is going to live."
I am a Palestinian, and
I've seen that we are faithful believers. We believe in our right to
live on our own land. We want to live and let live, but we will not
lie down or wait in line to be killed. We have waited long enough.
And, by now, I know that Israelis kill our kids deliberately to
break our hearts and bring our nation to its knees. I do not want to
mourn over the body of another Palestinian youth. But, if I must, I
know these children will unite with the earth of Palestine,
providing hydrocarbons and nutrition to our red soil. Our lemon
trees will grow, our gnarled olive trees will bend as mothers over
our dead and our bonds with the place where we were born will live
on forever. As my American friend tells me, "It will swing
back, Samah. It always has and it always will until there is no
earth for any of us."
(Samah Jabr is a freelance
writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written
with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)