We live in an ambiguous world where one person’s success is most often another’s destruction. Neither in nature nor in our human experience as beings of nature do we find justice and fairness readily available to us. As human beings, we have to devise our own justice and our own fairness through our human genetic gifts of thought and reason. We come up with ethics and moral values. Unfortunately, these humanly divined precepts can be as unjust as the death of a trophy animal who has lived a long and successful life, a prince among his kind, who might very well slide out of life by a pool of cool water, his mate and offspring huddled nearby. Instead, he is chased in his old age until he falls exhausted. Then, he is shot through the heart by a hunter not nearly as accomplished as he. He must die at the hands of a man with advantages, a jeep in which to ride and a gun with which to shoot. For the animal, this is not justice or fairness, yet it is a part of his world and ours.
In October 2000, the world has had access to live television accounts of war. People everywhere could watch from comfortable seats at home. They could witness the uneven fight between Arab boys with rocks and Israeli soldiers with guns. The opportunity to see Palestinians killed in front of their eyes, the most dramatic on-camera scene being the murder of a 12-year old boy in Gaza, surely gave pause even to some Zionists. Most watchers did not see the Hizbullah capture of three Israeli soldiers, their country’s war machines. That event which has not resulted in death, garnered more than sympathy. It stimulated action. America, the United Nations, international organizations jumped to intervene, to protest, to bring violence to an end. They know the Middle East’s eye-for-an-eye mentality, and they were afraid of reparation: Hizbullah’s three; Israel’s recompense, one hundred.
Most Palestinians want an end to catastrophe much more than the folks watching on television. They want to get on with their lives, but like the old gazelle being chased by the powerful hunter, it is not their nature to just die without an effort to survive. As Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi said, “What do you expect us to do, just lie down and accept what has happened to us?”
Zionists conveniently criticize the Intifada as well as our current uprising. Like Dr. Ashrawi, I ask, did the world expect Palestinians to simply fulfill Golda Meir’s famous line in which she said, “There are no Palestinians. I do not see Palestinians. Do you?”
The world sees Palestinians, now, but it is only our small conquest over just three soldiers that elicit genuine response from the big hunters of world power. The world’s response has nothing to do with fairness or justice; it has to do with fear of the Israeli hunter and the Palestinian hunted alike and what a war between them will mean in terms of commerce and convenience.
For those interested in watching our show, this isn’t about justice, compassion or religion, it’s about oil. Let me explain to those of you who speak of fairness and justice while you think of the value of oil. Fairness and justice are no more than words to Palestinian youth who have spent their whole lives going through checkpoints, being forbidden access to holy places, being jailed, beaten, thrown out of their homes because their homes are perceived as too close to a road meant to cut them off. Many Palestinians have been denied the human right of being able to strive for accomplishment and they have arrived at a state where stone throwing is the only means available to them.
One Zionist says, “If you hadn’t started the Intifada, you wouldn’t have a problem with Israelis now.” To this I respond, what would we have now? Our homes? Our schools? Our shrines? Our hopes? Does the world know how many of our mosques have become Israeli stables and bars? Dare we tell them and will it matter to anyone if we do speak out?” Barak says, “If you don’t stop throwing stones, there will be an all out war.”
But I respond, what is all out war if this isn’t? How can you have all out war when there is only one army?
Another Zionist says, “The Palestinians have destroyed Joseph’s Tomb, our holy site. Oh, the Palestinian Authority says they’ll restore it, but so what, they ruined it and should be punished.”
What has been ignored here is the fact that Joseph’s tomb is a site which Israeli’s use to launch missiles against the Palestinians. Does the world even know that Joseph’s Tomb was the site of an Islamic shrine, the tomb of a Turkish Mullah, an Ottoman treasure that was built by Palestinians? Isn’t it unholy for religion’s sites, regardless of which they serve, to become an excuse for the inexcusable? Do any of us really know where Joseph is buried or where he rose to heaven? How can we be so sure to the extent that we would use our belief as a graven image to justify murder or dissipation of those who do not agree with us?
Ambiguity is a part of our world and wrongs and rights are rarely as comprehensive as they seem to individuals. Palestinians ruin a site that once meant something to them. They are sorry, but being sorry doesn’t stop them. Israelis march on the Harem al-Sharif with disregard for Muslims at prayer. We all attack each other: the hunter with jeep and gun kills an honorable gazelle and claims a trophy; the world turns Palestinians over to Zionists and watches and waits while the taker fells the proprietor. When will our unique human reason lead us to compassion beyond our clouded perceptions of each other? Might the lessons of the Holy Land’s current strife provide a lesson? Might the gentle Kofi Annan guide us to agreement? Feeling like the old gazelle being chased by the big game hunter, I use religion to bow in hope that we will all come to our senses. We humans do have reason as part of our natural beings. Please let us use it to establish holy fairness.
(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem.)