When I lived in Jerusalem, I was often asked by Palestinian friends, â€œWhy does Mr. Bush hate us?â€ When I protested that he does not hate them, even I knew that what I said sounds hollow and untrue when one looks at the policies and positions of the United States government.
When I lived in Jerusalem, I was often asked by Palestinian friends, “Why does Mr. Bush hate us?” When I protested that he does not hate them, even I knew that what I said sounds hollow and untrue when one looks at the policies and positions of the United States government. It always seems as if there is a clear double standard by which Israel is allowed to continue its practices of land confiscation, settlement building, and total control of Palestinian movement in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem—with scant, obviously toothless U.S. protest—while the Palestinians are blamed for every halt or detour in any attempts at peace-making. These conversational confrontations—many of them—function as the lens through which I witness the unfolding of the drama which will climax in the Presidential election this November 4.
Try as I might, I simply cannot focus adequately on the domestic economy or the environment or even the war and devastation in Iraq while the bloodshed and daily agony of fear and oppression in the Holy Land are so vivid in my personal experience. I am not really comfortable with that narrow vision, and I often ask myself what lies behind it. Obviously the years spent mingling my tears and fears with both Palestinians and Israelis forged a passionate link with their hopes for peace with justice that will not be dissolved by distance. But I know there is more. When I reflect on the conflict in Iraq, I have no idea how to pull our troops out without leaving a stage set for even greater violence. I cannot even comprehend the complexities of what appears to be global economic chaos. And while I genuinely want to do my part for restoring the vigor and vitality to what our natural world once was, my pitifully small attempts at recycling and turning off unused lights seems so much like the proverbial “using a peashooter to fight a mountain lion.” But the warfare in Israel-Palestine is different. A rocket falls in the Israeli town of Sderot, scattering the people and bringing nightmares to their children. A house is demolished in pre-dawn East Jerusalem by the Border Police while the mentally challenged children who live there cling to their caregivers for security and comfort as they are forced to flee. Israeli parents cope with the cold dread in their stomachs as they see their children’s bus disappear into the distance. Palestinian parents watch with helpless anguish as their child dies because medical supplies could not pass the fierce Israeli blockade into Gaza. And on and on and on. These problems overwhelm me not with their complexity and their enormity, but with their tragedy…and the ease with which the rest of the world loves to throw up its hands and cry, “What can we do. This has gone on for so long!”
But I am convinced that there is much we can…and must do. So I have questions to ask the new President, whoever it may be, and to ask, through that person, the whole world. It is my sincere conviction that if we can help most people understand what is really happening—not merely the self-perpetuating image that is so prevalent—they will begin to comprehend that peace with justice is a real possibility. Some questions…
Why do so many people celebrate this month as the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel without the parallel recognition of The Nakba—the Catastrophe—in which at least 750,000 Palestinian people had to lose their homes before the initial conflict would end? Why do our leaders continue to demand “recognition” of Israel without first, or even simultaneously demanding that Israel tell the world exactly what its borders are? Then we would have a solid reality on which to begin negotiations.
Can we request that newspaper, magazine, and TV reporters—after they utter the obligatory phrase about Hamas, “…who seized military control of Gaza in June of 2007…” add some information about the how the United States not only pushed for that armed confrontation, but also supplied no small measure of arms to Fatah, the other party to the civil strife?
When we call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by his captors in Gaza, why is it that we never call for the release of those hundreds, maybe thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons who have never been found guilty of any crimes? Or the legislators from Hamas similarly held?
How is it possible to have real talks about peace when Israel, with U.S. approval and support, will only talk with Abu Mazen and Fatah, seemingly pretending that the people in Gaza can be totally excluded from any negotiations? And what in the world is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] thinking as he continues to act as if Hamas—for better or worse—weren’t democratically elected to represent the Palestinian people?
Perhaps this time we will elect an American President who will insist that we look at all the facts and factors and that we will work tirelessly to achieve a lasting peace with justice and security for both the peoples who call that land their home!