Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Leaving Palestine is like nothing else. There are so many unanswered questions and unfortunate truths in my mind as I gather my belongings. Sorting through my things, I make sure that there is no sign of Palestinian life in my baggage. Passing through the airport is difficult enough; I don't want the Israeli authorities to have any excuse for their rude behavior. It is so sad, this erasure of my friends and their culture. It is such a symbol of what Israel has done and continues to do. They cannot be reminded of the existence of the Palestinian people. They will be angry to see that I have not removed my kuffiyeh (Palestinian scarf) from my bag. I guess this is a small act of resistance. It is both the least and the most I can do under the circumstances.

Leaving Palestine is always difficult. The last time I left, I took pictures of the 'progress' of Israeli construction of the apartheid wall. Upon my arrival one month ago, I was dismayed but unsurprised to find the monstrous, life-taking barrier had grown immensely while I was gone.

A few nights ago, after watching a documentary on the violence in
Iraq and then news programs describing the fighting among Palestinians in Gaza, I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamt that Palestine had become like Iraq, with people of different factions causing chaos and wreaking havoc on the peace-seeking civilian population. There were explosions everywhere; one's only thoughts focused on bare survival. When I go to get bread today, will I come back? Should I go to the market now, or wait a few hours until the inevitable bomb strikes? Will my children come home from school today?

I hope that this nightmare will stay forever in the realm of the subconscious. My greatest fear for this land is that the Americans and Israelis will succeed with their plan to destroy the Palestinians from the inside. If the power-struggle catapults into all-out war, how will people here continue to have even a glimmer of hope to get them through the worst of Israeli ethnic cleansing policies? How will people resist Israeli occupation if their guns are turned on one another?

So this time, in January 2007, leaving
Palestine worries me in manner that is completely new and terrifying. We activists in the West, and all Palestinians at birth, understand well that Israel is not a benevolent partner for a just peace for all people in the Holy Land. Leaving Palestine has always been difficult; I have always expected that the occupation's mechanisms of control will be more difficult, more crushing, when (and if) I return. But this time it is different. Now, the unknown is the greatest fear.

Antonio Gramsci once wrote of the "pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will." He could not have better described how I feel today, packing my things to leave my friends in their open air prisons.

My pessimistic side, apparently manifest in my subconscious as well as the nagging thoughts in the forefront of my brain, sees the worst. It knows full well what will happen. The Israelis and Americans will get their wish: the Palestinians will kill one another and this place will spiral out of control. Resistance to the occupation will come to a virtual halt as civic, education, peace and intellectual leaders scramble to put bandages on the US-sponsored gunshot wound to the heart of
Palestine, solidarity among the people.

In the
US, my government is sending more than 17,500 troops, most of them reserve soldiers, to Iraq. Bush continues to terrorize the American public, cutting social and education spending and fattening the pockets of the fat-cats who bought his election. One in three homeless Americans is a war veteran. Ninety percent of soldiers being redeployed to Iraq are heavily sedated, taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. The divorce rate among veterans of the Iraq war is over seventy percent. The war on the poor and on people of color continues unabated. Over two million Americans, most of them people of color, languish in prisons where torture is commonplace and access to health care virtually non-existent. The fastest growing prison population is Black women. Most of the incarcerated are serving time for non-violent crimes.

My optimistic side, that which allows me to rise in the morning hopeful for a better tomorrow for all of the world, clings to positive developments. Palestinian leaders are calling for calm; they are calling a spade a spade, denouncing nefarious American and Israeli involvement in intra-Palestinian affairs. They are pleading with the factions to end the fighting, and the majority of the Palestinian population (as far as I can tell) support these pleas and add their voices to the cries for solidarity.

Washington DC this weekend, half of a million people demonstrated against the illegal and immoral war against the Iraqi people. Four congresspeople made courageous statements to the effect that Bush is a liar and a coward, and that they will see to it to do all in their power to follow through with the American public's demand to end the occupation. Organizations representing the poor, people of color, and women rallied together to denounce American imperialism and demand that we fight poverty and AIDS instead of Middle Eastern people. Slowly, Americans are beginning to realize that the terror/security paradigm so flagrantly abused by the US and Israeli governments is simply a veil, covering their lofty plans for domination and violence.

These things are all well and good. But, as the Palestinians know after nearly sixty years of occupation, talk is cheap. It is time for justice and peace seeking Americans and Israelis to stand up, to denounce firmly the actions of their governments, and to turn the tide away from violence and towards reconciliation. It is the responsibility of people of European descent to combat the racism that lies at the heart of so many of the world’s problems. It is the responsibility of all Americans to end the
US siege of the Palestinian government, as it is ours to demand and work towards an end to the occupations of both Palestine and Iraq. Palestinians and Iraqis are capable of defending themselves up to a point. But, due to extraordinary biased American involvement in the region, they cannot do it alone. We must stand in solidarity with them, for them, for ourselves, and for our collective future.

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