Reacting in moderation: How not to let the death of those in Gaza be in vain

Smoke, SyriaBy Mehdi Rifai

First off, an easy confession for me to make is that what is happening in Gaza appalls me, and makes me rethink a lot of my former “moderate” opinions concerning Israel. It has been my opinion for some time that Arab grief over Palestine has been stuck too long in the “anger” and “denial” phases, and that perhaps it is time to move on to some strong bargaining and get what we realistically can out of the whole situation. The recent events, however, while only proving once again the disdain Israel has for the international community and their conventions regarding the rules of war and proportionality, does make me wonder how much we can achieve negotiating with a people that have become so incredibly fascist and over-reactionary. The age of leaders in Israel who, while we might hate them, we can respect is over. Israel has become as tactless and inefficient as the Americans in their recent war efforts, and therefore deserve nothing but contempt.

That said, how we phrase our contempt should be a matter of extreme study. Right now, all eyes are on us, and the international community seems to finally agree that the Israel situation is completely out of hand. It’s therefore a little disturbing for me when I receive, as I had this morning, a mass email falsely claiming to feature quotes from Hollywood stars talking about the situation, fabricating quotes like “Arabs are dirty creatures that must be annihilated.” One of those quoted, Keanu Reeves, was born in the American University Hospital in Beirut and has always been proud of it. Another, Harrison Ford, an Irish Catholic, is quoted as saying that “We the Jewish people are the chosen ones, and therefore need to destroy the Arab stain on Jerusalem.”

These blatant lies only serve to make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the people who can help us overcome this situation with a gain, and who can finally make the Israeli government revise these murderous tactics. You don’t think that these emails are noticed, or they have no effect? I’ll tell you about another forwarded email I got when I was in Canada. These were of a real protest in London, one I had actually seen on the news a few days earlier, and was embarrassed to see what some people had decided to write on the signs. “Behead all the enemies of Islam,” said one, while another claimed that soon, an Islamic wave would wash over Europe, wiping it clean. The caption under all these pictures was “Do you still think the war on terror is not necessary?”

“I wish people would keep Islam out of it,” says one friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous. “There are plenty of reasons to be angry with Israel, but when people propagate stories like all Muslims will one day march on Israel and wipe them away, except for those who hide behind sycamore trees, since those were always Jewish trees, people stop taking us seriously. I don’t hate Israel because I’m Muslim. I hate them because they kill indiscriminately, and don’t use the technology and weaponry that they’re so proud of, and claim is so precise, to minimize casualties. I hate them because they cut off aid, and don’t recognize the conventions that allow personnel like UN and Red Cross and Crescent workers safe passage to heal and help the injured and the helpless on both sides. I hate them because they block every agreement that would ban certain weapons, such as WMDs or, on a much smaller but practically deadlier scale, land-mines. I hate them because as a supposedly democratic country, they allow the people that represent them to commit atrocities like this unhindered. It is not my religion that makes me angry with them; it’s my human decency.”

What we say and how we react to these situations is most definitely noticed, which is why our reactions must be studied and educated, not emotional and unbridled. Many I have told this too say, “Well, it’s impossible to control all your reactions, and we need to “Fish Khilq” (blow off steam) somehow.” To this, I say, no, you don’t need to blow off steam; you need to take that steam and use it to power some kind of motion forward. Use your emotions to finally make some headway in a situation that has kept us down as a people for so long. Israel has finally lifted its mask to reveal its true, and ugly, face; now is the time to make progress.

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5 Responses

  1. The Gaza Anthem

    We will not go down!

    Play it loud, chant it everywhere, let them know that We will not go down!

    We will not go down
    In the night, without a fight
    You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
    But our spirit will never die
    We will not go down
    In Gaza tonight

    Please spread it, embed it when you can, and let YouTube and the entire world hear that we will not go down!

    “We will not go down (Song for Gaza)” – composed and performed by my extremely talented brother, God bless him.

  2. Great post! And I couldn’t agree with your friend more. Hear hear!

    However, I feel I should point out that every religion/race/group of people has ‘extremists’ or whatever you want to call them – people who will call for murder and radical actions. People who feed off ignorance and project their views in hateful, twisted ways. That is an unavoidable fact. I attended a conference between the Jewish and Islamic faith in Canada once, and a few Rabbis were calling for peace in the Middle East and condemning the actions of the state of Israel, etc when a Jewish man stood up, spat on the Rabbi, and called him many names, including an undercover Muslim. He also said Palestine was a terrorist state that deserved what it was getting – he even condoned the death of women and children because they will grow up to be terrorists. This was in 06. But, nevertheless, I didn’t leave that conference believing that all Jewish people hold that view. I refuse to stereotype.

    What I’m trying to say is that people should learn to exercise restraint and wisdom when dealing with people of different cultures/religions. Stereotyping gets us nowhere. But the blame isn’t solely on the shoulders of the people you mentioned. Equal fault lies on the shoulders of those who fall prey to stereotyping. Or so I believe.

  3. I agree on your point about stereotyping, and I believe my friend does too. I’m not going to do the ritual “Oh, a lot of my friends are Jewish” defense, which is just so typical and slightly racist in itself, but I would point out the Israel/Judaism distinction, and even if within Israel itself there are factions that work for peace, the majority have voted for a government that is doing what is going on now. It’s funny that this mirrors what happened in Palestine, since the Palestinian people voted in Hammas because they believed they were the only ones that would bring about change, even though Hammas is generally recognized as the most violent and militant of the resistance groups. When are both sides going to learn that militancy is a cycle that feeds only itself and goes nowhere?

  4. Nice post Mr.Mehdi,
    i hope one day arab pl would understand what are ou pointing to. it will make all in a better image in order to strength out our attitude.

  5. Trawling throught recent news on Syria as I enjoy the comforts of a cool Irish summer’s day and fast(er) wireless internet I saw Sasa’s post marking six months since Israel’s operation on Gaza on http://www.newsfromsyria.com today and it made me think.

    Today I went into a local library, just for a look and for some quiet comfort for a few hours, I picked up three books at random, something by Karen Armstrong, something on Iran and an autobiography by Queen Nour of Jordan.

    The last, where she charts King Hussein’s fighting with the PLO and his opposition to the Camp David Accords made for teriffic reading. The man simply couldn’t allow the PLO take over his country but Palestinians were left with nothing, a true moral dilemma.

    Additionally, she gave detailed accounts of what it was like coming from the US to Jordan and from living a relatively ordinary life to being the wife of a king.

    What struck me most however was the minute details of what happened in June 1967 and thereafter. It just seemed so wrong and utterly intolerable for any citizen or head of state of an Arab state to accept what happened — and Jordan was a friend of the United States. I was reading but scarcely believing what actually happened.

    Move forward to 2009.

    Peace in the Middle East appears distinctly possible, more possible than at any time for almost a decade. But I think one would do well to check up on the history and political events of the late 1960s and 70s and see what exactly happened. Promises were made, pacts were signed, Arab leaders were welcomed to Blair House in Washington D.C. Photo-ops, lunch meetings, presentations and agreements. More promises and speeches promising and end to conflict in the Middle East.

    And where are we today, 40 years on?

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