Remembering September 11th

Imagine for a second, if Sept. 11th happened again, and -God forbid- the equivalent number of people got murdered all over again. Then imagine it happening again and again, for 35 years. Hard to swallow, or even fathom something that horrific ? Well, it has been going on actually, right before us. Welcome to the life of a Palestinian in occupied Palestine.

The other day, I watched the completion of the cleanup at Ground Zero in NYC on the news. The report was that 2823 people lost their lives on that fateful day. Being of Palestinian origin, this immediately triggered my thoughts of the defenceless Palestinian population, also being unjustly murdered -by the Israeli occupation- half a world away.

Thinking solely in terms of numbers, there are only 3.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If we translate the numbers proportionally to the United States population for example, this would mean that 157, 000  Americans had been killed, and over three million wounded in the past 20 months. This is like having 55 events like September the 11th, or almost one every ten days for the past year and a half .

The purpose of these figures is not to belittle what occurred on that horrific day, but to exhibit a thought exercise, to try and understand the volume of the tragedy, the hell the Palestinians have been living through since 1967.

Add to the above the first Palestinian Intifada, in which thousands more (i.e. equivalent to hundreds of thousands) were dead or wounded, many crippled for life. Then the hundreds of homes demolished (i.e. tens of thousands of families rendered homeless), the daily humiliations, women giving birth to children dying at checkpoints, massive arrests without any charges, the systematic torture of these prisoners, illegal land confiscation, uprooting of trees representing peoples’ livelihood, and the list goes on and on. Living through this daily fear and suffering, can we even begin to understand it all ?

Again, watching the TV, I saw the last beam of the World Trade Center’s rubble loaded onto a truck and carried away, and this triggered more thoughts. My mind raced back to the Jenin refugee camp, which was put under siege by the Israeli military for 12days and nights. For what seemed like an eternity, the men, women and children of the camp were pounded with the horrors of bombardment from Israeli gunfire, tanks and missiles. In the end, hundreds, if not thousands, were redispossessed as refugees once again, arbitrarily arrested, wounded, missing or dead under the rubble.

I remembered when the towers went down how people from all across the USA rushed to New York to remove the rubble and help in the search for survivors. In Jenin, we’ll never know if there were any left under the debris, because they were  not allowed to be saved, as the Israeli army prevented the ambulances or rescue workers into the camp. Even after the army withdrew from the camp center, it continued to block the surroundings and prevent any type of equipment from entrance to help in the rubble’s removal. The Israeli government continued to enforce round-the-clock curfews on the civilians in neighboring towns and villages, and blocked those areas off, preventing people from coming to aid in any rescue effort. And so, as the children began to dig away with their bare little hands to find their loved ones, the surviving mothers wailed in the background, asking God why ?

I remembered all the journalists rushing from across the country to assess the damage, and report on the rescue efforts underway. I contrasted that with how reporters from across the globe were prevented to get near or see the crimes being committed in Jenin. How they couldn’t see the wounded left to die slowly in horrible agony, because medics weren’t allowed in to treat them, or how they died quickly when Israeli tanks ran over them and mangled their bodies. How those bodies lay rotting in the streets, and the women and terrified children who saw them, as they ran from one home to the next looking for cover and cowering with fear. How food, medicine and water was cut off from the camp, and families were forced into drinking sewage. How men were stripped and beaten, used as human shields, taken away and tortured, then left to return without ever knowing what happened to their now missing families. Then Israel succeeded in defying the world, and preventing the! UN from investigating these savageries.

Yet not only do the Palestinians have to endure these cruelties, but also the hypocrisy of the outside world, particularly the US media and press that vilifies them. The examples of abhorrently biased reporting are too many to list, yet here’s a description from the NY Times on April 21 : “As Israeli forces pursued militants, civilians continued getting in the way and dying as a result ” !! This appalling type of narrative has become widespread in demonizing the victims, and justifying any and all Israeli criminal acts.

Just as the atrocity of that September morning should have never occurred, the continuing atrocity against the Palestinian people shouldn’t. It is time we come together, and demand from our government and media that the Palestinian nightmare, that the ongoing Palestinian day of Sep. 11th, which has lasted for 35 years, come to an end.