American Like Me

If I get another e-mail or letter announcing a new organization I’m going to lose it. As a Palestinian-American, I’ve been inundated with announcements and appeals from groups, all very worthy mind you, across the gamut. It’s nice the see the Palestinian issue igniting such passion. Or is it?

My awareness of being a Palestinian-American began at an early age, with full credit given to my father and mother, immigrants to the U.S. from Ramallah. My father and mother had an unadulterated conviction of what it meant to be an American. The “melting pot” was acted out every evening on our front porch in the summers and in the winters in our living room. Friends, relatives and neighbors all joining at my family’s home to discuss everything from world politics to the local community news. I distinctly remember my father sitting me down to write my first letter to Senator Robert Griffin of Michigan regarding the importance of parochial school education; I was twelve years old, the year was 1972. In 1972, Palestinian militants murdered Israeli athletes attending the Olympics; I’ll never forget that day and running home in tears as my classmates called me a “terrorist”. Upon arriving to the comfort of my mother’s arms and informing her of the days events at school, I was promptly taken by my mothers hand as she hurriedly took me back to school and marched in to see the school principle, a Catholic nun. My mother made it clear, and in no uncertain terms, that if the school was incapable of educating its students, she would gladly offer her services free of charge. The school took her up on her offer and invited her to address our social studies class on the history of the Palestinian people. Things changed after that. I learned, first hand, the importance of self-respect.

I have experienced much throughout my short life, college, marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, death and post-graduate education. I have worked for several causes as an individual and as a professional. Paramount among these causes has been the Palestinian cause. I often ask myself why the Palestinian cause? A logical answer is because I am of Palestinian descent. A more appropriate answer is because I am an American.

As an American, I find it frustrating that the Palestinian cause has been hopelessly mired in confusion and disarray. Too much knee-jerk reaction and not enough careful thought and planning. When violence erupts, everyone scatters to action and lo and behold, political action committees are formed, peace organizations blossom and media groups round up to rally us around the evil of the biased U.S. media. When advocates for a just solution speak out they are branded “rejectionists” and ignored until violence erupts again. Take for example Professor Edward Said who was called a “rejectionist by Palestinians themselves and many of them Palestinian-Americans. You can deny it or feign ignorance, but the truth is that Professor Said and others warned us all that Oslo was a sham and would fail; he was ignored. Instead, many of the so-called Palestinian-American and Arab-American leaders jumped at the opportunity for photo-ops on the White House lawn when Arafat and Rabin shook hands. And still, we have the nerve to blame Israel?

I often wonder why the Palestinian cause seems doomed to endless failure and untold misery for so many innocent people seeking to live normal lives. I seek answers to the point of my quest becoming an obsession. I’ve had to rid myself of this unhealthy obsession and resort to careful observation.

Allow me to share a few of my observations with you:

The Palestinian cause is a just cause as was the cause of the Free South Africa Movement however just causes will only receive just results when they are

The plight of Palestinians deserves American attention and presented the right way will receive the attention and action it needs.

The Palestinian cause has failed to receive any positive attention not because America failed it but because we, as Palestinian-Americans failed America, we fail every day to live the life of an American, instead we live our sheltered lives and hope no one will notice we are different or “one of them”;

Palestinian-Americans, the majority of them, lack the basic knowledge, education and sophistication to grasp what it means to be an American and this key factor has lead to years of misunderstanding and ignorance, perpetrated not by American people but by us;

We expect others to do make the contributions that we, as Americans, should be making. We have no problem with others speaking out against American policy but God forbid we do it because who would listen to us and maybe we would be branded “anti-American”.

We, like every American, wishes to live the American dream, we vote for those who promise a better economy but screw what they do to our society, because after all, it’s not “our society”, it’s “theirs”. (I can’t tell you how many Palestinian-Americans and Arab-Americans, I know personally, who voted for Bush some of them would astound you as they did me);

We have no problem making a buck off the misery of people living under occupation. A divestment campaign is underway and yet, Palestinian-American groups and individual Palestinians are investing in the very companies who cause the misery of their own people. If that’s not adding insult to injury, ask them if they know about the divestment campaign the next time you see them at your local Starbucks.

We want Americans to wake up? It would be an easier task if we woke up first.

Kathleen M. Abourezk contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from the United States of America.