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Sunday, October 31, 2010

We Are Accused of Terrorism

We are accused of terrorism
If we dare to write about the remains of a homeland
That is scattered in pieces and in decay
In decadence and disarray
About a homeland that is searching for a place
And about a nation that no longer has a face

About a homeland that has nothing left of its great ancient verse
But that of wailing and eulogy

About a homeland that has nothing in its horizons
Of freedoms of different types and ideology

About a homeland that forbids us from buying a newspaper
Or listen to anything
About a homeland where all birds are always not allowed to sing
About a homeland that out of horror, its writers are using invisible ink

About a homeland that resembles poetry in our country
Improvised, imported, loose and of no boundaries
Of foreign tongue and soul
Detached from Man and Land, ignoring their plight as a whole

About a homeland to the negotiating table moves
Without a dignity or shoes

About a homeland
That no more has steadfast men
With only women therein

Bitterness is in our mouths in our talk in our eyes
Will draught also plague our souls as a legacy passed to us
from ancient times?

Our nation has nobody left, even the less glorified
No one to say "NO" in the face of those who gave up our
home bread and butter
Turning our colorful history into a circus

We have not a single honest poem
That has not lost its virginity in a ruler's Harem

We grew accustomed to humiliation
Then what is left of Man
If he is comfortable with that?

I search the books of history
For men of greatness to deliver us from darkness
To save our women from fires' brutality

I search for men of yesterday
But all I find is frightened cats
Fearing for their souls
From the authority of rats

Are we hit by national blindness
Or are we suffering from color blindness

We are accused of terrorism
If we refuse to perish
Under Israeli tyranny
That is hampering our unity
Our history
Our Bible and our Quran
Our prophets' land
If that is our sin and crime
Then terrorism is fine

We are accused of terrorism
If we refuse to be wiped out
By barbarians, the Mongols or the Jews
If we choose to stone the fragile security council
Which was sacked by the king of caesuras

We are accused of terrorism
If we refuse to negotiate the wolf
And reach out for a whore

America is fighting the cultures of Man
Because it lacks one
And against the civilizations because it needs one
It is a gigantic structure but without a wall

We are accused of terrorism
If we refuse current times
Where America the arrogant the mighty the rich
Became a sworn interpreter of Hebrew.

-Nizar Qabbani

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Look at the Israeli Ambassador's Visit

These past several weeks have elicited within me a feeling of pity for those who feel that they are forced to fabricate arguments defending the human rights violations associated with the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestine. This pity was extended to Israeli Ambassador, Dr. Michael Oren, as I listened to his speech at the Clarence Smith Performing Arts Center last Thursday. As I listened to easily-digestible facts about the State of Israel, I expected no less from a man who is paid to regurgitate the predictable talking points and rhetoric of the acting Israeli Government. I found his arguments to be pathetic, if not desperate to say the least. For instance, in his talk, Oren justified the US support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine through a combination of cute quotes by famous American historical figures, and the citing of job and technology creations from the $3.2 billion Israel receives in foreign US military aid, as if these were valid points.

As a politician, Oren interestingly tried to appeal to both religious and secular Zionists, something that I wonder if Dr. Oren would do in person. His references to American historical figures who spoke of Jews returning to their homeland reflected an aspect of manifest destiny that is the underlying ideology behind Zionism. Personally, as a Jew myself, I like this idea of a manifest destiny of paper. But my rights to achieve a Jewish homeland for my people are only extended as far as not to infringe upon the freedoms and liberties of others. This is where I differ between Oren and nearly all present day Zionists, who feel that the human rights violations are secondary to achieving a Jewish homeland. I’m sorry Mom and Dad, but if the success of the Jewish State requires the militarized separation, immigration and citizenship discrimination, and the unapologetic dehumanization of a forcibly displaced people, then I can not support it as it as it currently exists. Not to mention, the land’s connection to the Jewish people is just as reasonable as the land’s connection to other nations and empires who have touched that region over the last 2,000 years, such as present day Italy, Greece, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UK, among others.

I was also taken aback by Oren insisting that the military contracting jobs created by $3.2 billion US aid somehow, at least in part, justified Israel’s questionable foreign and domestic policies. As if making money is more important than the suffering and discrimination of millions of people! Oren completely failed to mention any aspects of his country’s human rights violations nor did he ever use of the word occupation (as far as I remember). Instead, Oren focused on themes of security and combating terrorism, while completely disregarding how these are connected to the occupation. Such narrow-minded thinking does not fully put Palestinian resistance into context, and consequently, only demonizes the Palestinian people. It is much easier for Oren and the like to feel they have the higher moral ground when they completely ignore the existence of the occupation, and instead view Palestinian resistance as random acts of Anti-Semitic violence.

Oren also refused to take at least some responsibility on behalf of Israel, for Israel’s lack of contribution to the peace process and instead appeared to have laid all the blame on Palestinians for stalling peace. For instance, one talking point Oren repeated was that Israel would negotiate peace only if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State. One: how can Israel ask for such a demand when they do not even respect Palestine as an independent sovereign state? Two: this rhetoric regarding Israel’s demand to be recognized is completely baseless considering Israel has not instigated any peace talks in the last several years (until the past few months thanks to the US State Department) where such a demand could officially be made. If Oren is however referring to the Palestinian Authority’s current lack of enthusiasm for pursuing peace talks, as the basis for the claim that the Palestinians are the only deterrence for peace, then he completely failed to mention that the Israeli Government has ended its moratorium on settlement building, and is currently building 350 homes in the West Bank, the reason for Hamas’ and the PA’s frustration.

Overall, Dr. Oren’s speech was filled with vague rhetoric and fancy ideas, while simultaneously failing to address the important issues at hand. But I do not expect any less of him. He is a politician. He is no different from American politicians at home who blindly use vague words and ideas like “freedom” and “small government” before advocating that the Federal Government infringe upon the rights of Muslims to build a Muslim Community Center in New York. Perhaps Oren’s rhetorical tactics satisfy a concern among the Zionist community, a concern that was brought up by one of the students during the question and answer session; a concern to strengthen Israel’s PR campaign in order to maintain a more positive international image. Does their idea of achieving middle eastern peace really consist of calling for an overpowering State-run propaganda campaign that highlights trivial facts about Israel in the style of a holiday travel brochure, instead of addressing the cries of millions of people in the West Bank and Gaza? As long as the voices of the Palestinians are ignored as if their mouths were taped shut, then peace and security is impossible.