Tag Archives: Palestime

All Men (Except Palestinians) Are Created Equal

By Suha Najjar, LSA Sophomore at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Article 3 Of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

This past summer, I was in Jabalia, Gaza visiting my uncle’s home. It was about 2:15 am, and my 3-year-old cousin, Susu, thought it would be funny to start throwing peaches at me. Meanwhile my mother, brother, sister, uncle, and his wife, were counting down the last minutes until the electricity was supposed to come back on. We had gone 11 hours straight without electricity that day. Suddenly, for the third time during my 2-month-long visit to Palestine, the sound of an explosion rung in the living room. For a second, I thought that the missile had hit our building, but then I remembered the descriptions my friends and family had given me when explosions hit nearby. Shaking walls, shattered glass, and blinding dust were all a part of their vivid recounts, something that not many people around the world have to live through, but all the people of Gaza do. Our building wasn’t hit, but our cores where shook. Although it had happened twice before, this was a sound that I could never get used to. Susu immediately began crying and my uncle ran to him and embraced him in his arms. As he stroked his hair, all he said was “la la yaba” (“no, no, daddy”) until his son stopped crying. My uncle looked at me and shook his head. The only thing I thought to say at that moment was “Don’t be afraid, Susu, it’s going to be okay.” My uncle smiled and put Susu down.

Jabaliya refugee camp is one of the most deprived and densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip.

“How do you know that, Suha? We don’t have the right to make promises like that anymore. Actually, we never did. We Palestinians don’t have the right to promise our children anything. We can’t promise them college, we can’t promise them bread, we can’t promise them a home, we can’t promise them security, we can’t even promise them life. What kind of fathers and mothers are we? We don’t have the right to be parents. Look what they did to our people, we’re not even a people anymore, we’re just animals. Actually we’d be lucky if we were treated like animals. Why do I have to see my son crying and shaking in fear almost every night? Why can’t I have the peace of mind knowing that my son can someday just have the HOPE of having a happy life, away from missiles, away from bombs, away from this shit that we live in?! I don’t even know why your father lets you come here. Our lives are worthless. The world has forgotten about us. Or they never cared to begin with. The Arabs are shit and America is shit. The whole world is shit! We don’t have anyone but God. And it looks like He’s not on our side either. Do yourself a big favor in the future, don’t ever let your children get a Palestinian citizenship or even come back here. Stay American. At least you’ll be a human being.

The conversation was interrupted as my uncle’s neighbor shouted to him from outside. He and my uncle tried to get a generator working, knowing that it would be a while until the electricity is restored.

My mind drifted back to my life here in the states. I remembered all the protests that I was a part of, the ‘stands in solidarity’, the ‘dialogues and discussions.’ Things I always thought would some day change the atrocious conditions my family was living in. In that brief moment that dragged excruciatingly on, they all seemed so worthless, so hypocritical…

There were two lands that I called home, Palestine and the USA. One’s name is imprinted on the F-16’s, the machine guns, the tanks, the tear gas that is used everyday to dehumanize, disillusion, and slaughter my other home. Yet, I still thought that America and the rest of the world would always defend my right to “life, liberty and security of person.” The rights I always thought I had simply because I was human, suddenly became the ones I owned only because I was an American, and that privilege was lifted the moment I stepped foot into the occupied territories of Palestine. That cringing sound of an airplane that would never cause me to flinch in America, now caused my heart to drop as I would pray it wasn’t my last night.

Up until that moment, I always felt that I was a victim. After all I had been an Arab-Muslim woman living in America, but in reality, it was the opposite. I was a part of the human race as long as I stood outside of Palestine. I still had a voice, I still had the right to plan and promise, I still had hope, something that my people couldn’t fathom they’d someday own as well. Guilt overtook me as I realized that when I lived in America, I was a part of the ‘they’ my uncle was referring to. I was a part of the ‘they’ that allowed my uncle to become demoralized and dejected. I immediately decided to stop thinking about it and returned to tickling and playing hide and seek with Susu until the night was over. I was uncomfortably comforted by Susu’s innocence, wishing I could be in his shoes, have his views, if only for a little while.

We left around 5 a.m. to our apartment in Rimal, still no electricity. Before I went to bed, my dad took our passports in order to reserve us a spot on the Gaza-Rafah border so that we could plan our leave weeks later. When I pulled out my two passports from my dad’s waist bag, I stared at both documents. In one hand I carried what made me a ‘human’ and in the other, the exact opposite. A feeling of hypocrisy, contradiction, and overall confusion overtook me whole. I am a living paradox, two incompatible entities housed within one body. But the truth is, I have yet to grasp what it means to be a Palestinian, an American, and a human being living in the world today. One thing that I have become completely conscious of is that the right to liberty does not apply to every human. The right to life is selective at best, and the right to security of person is a mere façade. I’ve realized that these rights are the standards of select human beings, but not for Palestinians. Not yet. The hope that this may one day be a standard for Susu and his grandkids is a dream too far down the road to be declared a universal standard. For the sake of accuracy, a decree ought to be issued to call it by its true name: ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for everyone, but Palestinians.’

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Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?

By Eman Abdelhadi-LSA Senior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

The President

Exactly 6 days after he delivered his “much-anticipated” speech on Middle East policy and 3 days after he delivered an address to AIPAC  speaking on many of the same topics, President Obama spoke to both houses of the British Parliament  about US-British relations. The American press hailed the first speech as a “reset on Middle East policy”, and bloggers and writers claimed that the US had finally thrown full support behind the Arab Spring. Pro-Israel writers followed Mitt Romney’s example and bemoaned the President’s proclamation on the 1967 borders as an act of throwing Israel under the proverbial bus. But as an activist and humanitarian, his speeches spoke to me not of the bold moves of a visionary leader but of the delusion and condescension of a Bush Era henchman.

The Community Organizer

Cutting through the rhetoric and niceties to the actual policy implications of his speech on Thursday, showed that Obama was merely spelling out an extension of the US policy of placing American security and economic interests in the region above all else. Even while pledging to support protesters, Obama continued to ignore their foremost demand; just as he had done with Tunisia, then Egypt. His harshest words, to President Al-Assad, spoke volumes. “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.” Lead the transition? How can a man who has waged war on his people, shooting down hundreds if not thousands of protesters while injuring and torturing many more, lead a transition to democracy? Since that first fateful Friday in December when Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, the central rally cry of the revolution has been the toppling of the current regimes in the Arab world.  “The people want the end of the regime” has resounded from square to square telling the world that those who rejected democracy and favored corruption for decades cannot, in one magical act of schizophrenia, turn around and lead their governments into a democracy! Apparently Obama has not been listening. A fact only reinforced by his deliberate failure to even mention Saudi Arabia’s massive military campaign against protesters in Bahrain and Yemen. Clearly US-favored stability at the cost of freedom of expression and self-determination is still the policy.

As for the now oft-cited recognition of the 1967 borders, I guess a congratulations is in order to our dear president for finally recognizing what has been decided by international law and affirmed by the global  community and humanitarians every where years ago. But before we jump on the US love boat and hail this step as revolutionary, let’s look at Obama’s speech to AIPAC only 3 days later. Stating that his ultimate priority was Israel’s security, Obama once again re-affirmed the stagnation of American foreign policy. Although he may stand before the world and claim an interest in the humanitarian objectives of both peoples, the reality is that his stance behind Israel is, in his own words, “ironclad”. His desperation to show Israel’s biggest lobby that nothing had changed in US support for Israel was disgusting and shameful considering the Israeli record of human rights violations and unlawful aggression.  Nowhere in either speech did he care to mention the unequal power dynamic between the two players or, while he harped on Palestinians for ending negotiations, Israel’s tendency to violate treaty after treaty after treaty. For Obama, Israel is not a means to peace, but an end in itself, just as it was for Bush and his predecessors.

If these two speeches left me dejected and disappointed, Obama’s talks in Great Britain left me nothing short of heartbroken. I watched as the ex-community organizer from Chicago who once, in near memory, embodied hope and progress, tolerated the superfluous ceremonies of a monarchy smeared with the legacy of colonialism and Eurocentrism. Then that same Obama stood before a podium and reminded his audience that the world still needed US-Brittish leadership, which had not ended. To an audience of British parliament members perhaps this was welcome news. But to those of us who know that leadership for what it was and is, a self-interested, opportunistic tendency to use military and economic prowess to trick the developing world out of its resources and self-determination, this was anything but good news. As Obama condescendingly clung to Western hegemony, his rhetoric echoed the exceptionalism we had become so accustomed to in the 8 years before his election. “It’s very hard to sit across the table from a party that is denying your right to exist, and has not renounced the right to send missiles and rockets into your territory,” he said matter-of-factly speaking of Fatah’s power-sharing alliance with Hamas (which is preventing civil bloodshed between Palestinians as we speak). Could the Palestinians not say the exact same thing to Israel, Mr President? Ironically, in almost the same breath, he re-iterated his opposition to Palestinian statehood being brought to the UN this fall. A dismissal of the UN and its role chillingly reminiscent of Bush Doctrine policies.

As I watched all this unfold I could not help but recall that historic speech to the Muslim world two years ago in which Barack Obama said “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect”. A speech in which he recognized the harms done to the Muslim world by the very American-European leadership he today tries to revive. “Tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” I could not bear the juxtaposition of the image of a politically young, newly elected Obama standing in front of a red curtain speaking of change, progress and equality and the image of a wizened president touring Buckingham palace with her majesty the queen and referencing the good ol’ days of uncontested US hegemony with Britain as its faithful sidekick.  I cannot help but wonder if in 2009 Obama only spoke in Cairo assuming that he would not be called to substantiate his promises because the Arab world would always be chained into submission by its dictatorial US allies. Or, perhaps in the time the Arabs have used to lift their chains, Obama, the community organizer, has incurred a set of his own. Either way, this is not the man next to whose name I proudly blackened a small black oval on November 4th, 2008.

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