Victims and Terrorists

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Many Israelis and friends of Israel around the world excuse the violence done to us Palestinians as necessary for security reasons.é Security measures include preemptive strikes, the words of Uzi Landau, an Israeli minister who wrote that we would crawl before his government begging for mercy before this current siege is over and retaliatory collective punishment that is often 100 fold greater than the violence perpetuated by one Palestinian or another.

When I wrote recently that security is an excuse for excessive violence and that much of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is no less than long term strategy clearly presented in writing in 1923 by Vladimir Jabotinsky, I received an onslaught of retaliatory hate mail far surpassing anything my Palestinian perspective stories had elicited before.é One man wrote that she hoped I’d die of breast cancer; another suggested that Ariel Sharon should single me out to be walled in and silenced with a mouthful of dirt, not mentioning that such dirt would be taken from my own soil. I wondered what was so different about my story which involved a historical explanation of the violence we experience today.éI felt I had touch a nerve of truth?? that Israel’s treatment of us is a result of political Zionists’ early 1900s strategic planning passed along to Menachem Begin to Yikzhak Shamir and finally culminating in Ariel Sharon’s brutal willingness to kill or imprison us all.é The resentment resulting from my analysis of the rationale behind the destruction of my people haunts those of Jewish faith, because it shows a lack of spiritual Zionism which Jews of conscience have told me resides in their hearts, not on our land.

The taking of the Holy Land is not the spiritual act it purports to be. This is a humanly construed violation of other peoples’ human rights. Israel’s taking of Palestine has occurred because there are many in our world today who are capable of choosing their own ambitions over those of God.  I speak of God as the eternal idea behind our three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  This God, we are taught, holds promise of justice and goodness based on the most positive emotion we human beings can imagine, love.  Unfortunately, some congregants who follow fundamentalist doctrine interpret God’s message as only for them.  They neither profess nor act upon God’s universality nor the ideas of compassion or justice rightly followed by peace.   You see the result of this here in Palestine, in Northern Ireland, all over the globe.

I started this story telling about reactions to my suggestion that what is happening to us now is not just a security measure, but the result of Zionist determinism and, as Jabotinsky rightly explained, virtually all indigenous  peoples’ willingness to fight for their own property and ways of life.  Aside from the lashing out notes of hate, even Israeli peace activists, “friends” who have supported me in the past, wrote in anger, citing Said Al-Houtary’s bombing of himself and pleasure seekers in Tel-Aviv as indication of Palestinian evilness.

Speaking of Said’s willingness to die for his country and to take others with him, one “friend”, an Israeli journalist, wrote, “You should remember that a society that encourages death among its sons, no matter what the cause, has no future and will never have a respectable place among civilized people.” What am I to think?   Evidently, for my friend, it’s one thing for young Israeli “soldiers”-a status required of all youth of Jewish faith in Israel-to place themselves in harms way and to violate  Palestinians’ rights on behalf of their government’s quest for land and power, but uncivilized for our young people to die for our right to live on our land.   I suppose my “friend” interprets Israeli voters willingness to hand their government over to a known war criminal and to support the violence which has resulted under his direction is civilized.  After all, Ariel Sharon is only acting out what early Revisionist Zionists suggested.

Should I suppose that “my peace-loving friend” favors allowing Sharon to put us all behind bars?  Once all the Palestinians are gone or in prison will the injustice stop or is this just a first stop in an onward march?  Is this an act of civilization like the American bomb dropped on Hiroshima?   Will the Knesset make an effort to resurrect Palestine for the Palestinians like the Americans did for the Japanese?  Or, will the Israeli government react with continued hatred and inhospitable behavior toward us?  Won’t there always be a few leaders with moral vision who will ruin the goal of colleagues pushing for total annihilation of the other?  To stop evil, all it takes is one person who remembers God and that we’re all, good or bad, are his creatures. Will oppression increase along with Israeli fear until a deadly uprising occurs again as it did after the thrashing punishment leveled by the winners of World War I?   How will the economy of Zionist success effect our lives?

America took pains to resurrect Japan once it had been conquered?  Will Israel do that for us?  Considering the blockade of our merchandise and the endless curfews designed to cripple our work force, I find it highly unlikely that I will see a change in attitude once the gates are closed. When our young men throw stones, they do it because they do not think they will see a change in attitude either. In the past, I have done what another “friendly” Israeli doctor suggests that I do and criticized my own people.  I have written about the psychological pain of living in a society where martyrdom is a necessity of an unbalanced war in which one side has weapons of mass destruction and the other side has only stones and antiquated equipment, at best.  I’ve written about the unrelenting sadness of the parents who see their children die for a cause when the youths are scarcely old enough to know what martyrdom means.

Sadly, for me, my “friend” appears to have missed my efforts at objectivity. “Prove your integrity,” she wrote to me, “and that you’re a woman of principle. Write in sympathy of innocent Israelis killed by Palestinian acts of terror.”  She continued to compliment me, suggesting that I have the talent, were I to take her suggestion, to write something that “even The New York Times would print.” I guess she feels that the Times only prints the Israeli perspective or dares only print stories appropriate for friends of Israel’s eyes, not “all the news that’s fit to print.” Perhaps, I should have been flattered by her challenge and her comment that she would “take her hat off to me” if I would condemn Said Al-Houtary and the parents of sons who have died for the Palestinian cause.  Instead, I cried.

My “friends” in Israel, just across Road Number One, those of you who welcomed me before this latest intifada, I cannot stop young men like Said Al-Houtary anymore than you can deny the historical reality of Zionist ambition.  I will not condemn Said Al-Houtary either.  He was a young man who gave his life for his people and for the only home he ever knew.  He was a young man fully immersed in war and who, sadly, learned the prophesies of a conflict: two wrongs make right .  He was a victim, not a hero, and not a terrorist.

This is a Palestinian’s definition of a terrorist.  A terrorist strikes out at innocent people through violent actions carried out because of his or her own ideals, not because he or she is protecting a people and a homeland as our young men are-or standing at a checkpoint with a gun on behalf of a government, as Israeli youths are.

We Palestinians, especially we young Palestinians, have lived in inhuman conditions all our lives.  Some of us reach a boiling point and stand ready to yield ourselves to the utter, hopeless frustration leveled on us by Israeli-Zionist oppression.  I mourn Said Al-Houtary’s death and the death of the Israeli victims, both.  I cry for you, my friends in Israel and for me.  Are my tears worth anything, even when shed for all who die?   Will the political Zionist strategy spoken of in the 1920s be reversed by your generation or mine so that neither Israeli soldier at checkpoint or Palestinian youth with a bomb strapped to his stomach will respond to the warring attitudes of governments.  We hear so much about the promise of Oslo.  What about the promise of 1920s Revisionist Zionism?  Which one is more shameful?

In the past, Palestinians have been chastised by Americans for “playing the victim.”  I’ve heard Americans complain that our people in refugee campus should simply get up and go home or go somewhere else and stop lying around waiting for Israel to come to its senses.  “You Palestinians are just not self-sufficient like we are.  The Israelis are like Americans; they take what they want and make it work for them.  That’s life,” uninvolved Americans say and, then, turn and go about their business. “Maybe so,” I answer, “We Palestinians are not the real victims. Zionists and friends of Zionism live lives of deep psychological insecurity. They are the victims of their own greed, arrogance and sense of superiority that leaves them morally and ethically deficient .  They are the victims.”

No matter how welcoming outsiders may be, there dwells in many Jewish hearts a fear that people will turn on them simply because they are Jewish.  For this, I am truly sorry.   Evidently, many of Jewish faith worry that telling people the truth behind Zionism will cause reenactment of the age of religious intolerance and “church wars.” Zionism is not Judaism and educated people around the world know this. Yet, evidently, this fact fails to connect in many Jewish minds.  I am a Palestinian Muslim, but I have only respect for the Jewish religion and for many of Jewish faith.  My enemy is Zionism.

I want to ask the peace activists who say that I am an enemy of Judaism, “Should I condemn one of my own for giving his life to fight political, revisionist Zionism?  Would you so condemn one of yours and if so, why are you not condemning Ariel Sharon and the settlers who murder without punishment?

My questions are as endless as this war.  Are the Israelis and their friends around the world unsophisticated enough to think that the whole world cannot see what’s happening here?   This isn’t the 1930s.  What happens today is visible everywhere, even when there are attempts to hid the truth. 

In 1930, there was news, there was propaganda, there were lies and truths, but there was no Internet.   How can the people of the world see the violent strategy and behavior of the Israeli government and construe that to simply be a need for security?  Is it not the Zionists who point a finger at all their fellow Jews and say, “You, you’re Jewish, you’re one of us.  Protect us, finance this, make those around you finance Israel or the world will kill us and you with us?

I suggest that Zionists insist on their fellow Jews’ support because they know what Ariel Sharon and his government are doing is wrong and is sure to initiate disdain for all those who support such injustice. To me, this is psychological terrorism.  Our martyrs are motivated by hopelessness.  What is the motivation of  your Zionists?  Do you believe, my peace-loving Jewish friends, that Zionist attempts to silence history will be more acceptable to the world than destruction of our villages that now lie covered with brambles and memories?  Do you really believe that these weeds will never be pruned so that the world stumbles, at last, upon truth?

When you ask me to write a story of sympathy for the 20 people killed by Said Al-Houtary, do you expect me to feel more pain for them than I do for the 600 Palestinians who died at the hands of the Israeli Defense Army or unpunished Israeli settlers? Let me be clear, our warriors are not terrorists.  I defined a terrorist. Terrorist come in all nationalities and all are psychopaths.  Terrorists have personal agendas.  Like Timothy McVey, they are hollow and do not blink when they die.  Our young men give up life for Palestine just as the Israeli government leads young soldiers to knock us to our knees. Your soldiers and ours do blink when they die and when they yield up the beauty of life to protect what they love.  You and I live in a world that sways like a rope bridge.  We can either live together or swing back and forth in uneasy traverse between truce and never ending fear?? or?? we can accept the inevitability of justice and make peace.  We can do that only if both sides realize a civilized concern for each other.  Neither I, however, nor you nor our warriors will be able to make this Godly choice until Israeli leaders begin the process that will reverse the truly evil, uncivilized traditions of 1920s political Zionism.

(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)

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