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Palestinians are Dying for Relative Calm

We should dispute it on a humanistic basis. Palestinians aren't
relative. Their lives shouldn't be defined in relation to the well
being of their oppressors. Palestinians are a hardworking and
brilliant people, and anybody who has spent time in Palestine knows
that their humanity stands on its own. They will exercise and
experience calm only when they are offered real freedom.
Palestinians are Dying for Relative Calm

Saturday, September 28 2002 @ 03:35 PM GMT



His grandmother described to us the pulpous red liquid that dripped
down his face after he was shot, the official Israeli inquiry that
absolved the soldiers of wrongdoing, the tears covering her
grandson's right cheek when doctors fitted him with a phony eye.

By Steven Salaita

(YellowTimes.org) - The baby died, naked, on a wooden table. Her
only exposure to the idyllic language of her ancestors arose from
memories of prenatal calm. In life, she lived and died hearing only
the peculiar vocabulary of her mother's unacknowledged screams.

The child was delivered into adulthood. She learned, before her
mother cleaned the mucus from her mouth with a bloody pinky finger,
that her appearance was unwanted. She was born a refugee. She was
born in isolation. She was born poor. She was born placeless. She
was born premature but proud: she was born Palestinian.

I will never forget when my friend recounted her baby's life story
over acrid cups of Arabic coffee in the sultry heat of Shatila,
Lebanon. My friend went into labor two months early. Her family,
like most Palestinians in Lebanon, had no insurance. She was turned
away at four hospitals before a public facility agreed to admit her.
The agreement didn't extend to providing care, however.

My friend screamed all night for a doctor or nurse. She delivered
her baby alone. She then pleaded for somebody to bring oxygen.
Nobody came. The baby died after a few hours. Her marbled body was
placed on an unadorned wooden table. Her mother stopped yelling. The
hospital returned to its preferred atmosphere of relative calm.

I always remember this story when the phrase "relative calm" is used
to describe the Middle East. Those of us in the United States who
haven't succumbed to the racism and treachery that define modern
Zionism know that "relative calm" means Palestinian civilians are
being slaughtered in the absence of the suicide bombings that Israel
invokes to justify its 36-year occupation.

The story, in its own tragic way, exemplifies the modern Palestinian
condition, where those under occupation aspire to avoid relative
calm and many in exile live without human rights because relative
calm is an aspiration to which Palestinians will never succumb. Too
many Palestinians have stories as dreadful as what I was told by my
friend in Shatila. This is the price Palestinians must pay for the
comfort of their oppressors.

Unfortunately, a period of "relative calm" recently predominated in
the Middle East. From early August to mid-September there were no
suicide bombings; there was therefore little coverage of events in
Palestine. More unfortunate, though, is the fact that the relative
calm so passively mentioned in the American media was in fact a
fierce and destructive period. It simply wasn't newsworthy because
Israel unleashed the fierceness and destruction (in addition, of
course, to the horror that perpetually characterizes its illegal
occupation).

Numerous assumptions can be drawn from this situation, none more
disgusting than the glaring hypocrisy and racism that typify the
process of selecting and presenting information in the American
media. During the golden era of relative calm, over 70 Palestinians
were murdered, all civilian, many children. Israeli soldiers
detonated two bombs in a secondary school in Gaza. Settlers - as
always, under the watchful eye of the IDF - burned crops and seized
land belonging to Palestinian farmers. None of it provoked the
breaking news coverage elicited by last week's suicide bomber. Most
of it went unmentioned. It is clear whose lives and livelihoods are
important to American editors. Their selectivity has long been the
defining feature of Apartheid.

So next time you hear an American news agency explain that the
Middle East is experiencing a period of relative calm, it is useful
to know what is really happening: Israeli occupation soldiers are
harassing, arresting, and murdering civilians; Israeli bulldozers
are destroying houses; Israeli settlers are beating children with
crowbars and rifle butts - all because Ariel Sharon is approving new
settlement plans, the very cause of this miserable and seemingly
endless conflict.

During the next stretch of relative calm, it is useful to know that
Israel is engaging in the behavior that has rightfully earned it
international condemnation: arbitrary curfew, forced starvation,
economic strangulation, legalized torture, mass arrest, judicial
deceit, land expropriation, settlement construction, crop
demolition, and home destruction.

More than anything, it is useful to know that, in the interests of
political expedience, the American media ignore a situation that
meets all the criteria for segregation and ethnic cleansing. At
times, it is not the actual reportage that merits condemnation, for
a suicide bombing is certainly worth attention. It is what goes
unreported that constitutes the shame of our nation.

When I hear about relative calm in the Middle East, I remember the
four-year-old boy I met last year in the West Bank al-Khader
Village. He stared at me calmly but not lifelessly, for he carried
all the markings of war in his brown glass eye. His left eye had
been punctured by a soldier's bullet while he stood on his balcony.
His grandmother described to us the pulpous red liquid that dripped
down his face after he was shot, the official Israeli inquiry that
absolved the soldiers of wrongdoing, the tears covering her
grandson's right cheek when doctors fitted him with a phony eye.

I left the child in relative calm that afternoon. He has known
nothing else in his short life. He told me as much when I saw the
glassy hue of his pupil reflect into a cloudless sky.

There are connections to be made between al-Khader and Shatila, just
as there are connections to be made among Israel and Euro-American
settlers, South African Apartheidists, and southern American
segregationists. The most powerful connection is also the simplest:
We should dispute the phrase "relative calm" not solely on a
political and factual basis, although politics and factual
suppression are certainly at play in its usage.

We should dispute it on a humanistic basis. Palestinians aren't
relative. Their lives shouldn't be defined in relation to the well
being of their oppressors. Palestinians are a hardworking and
brilliant people, and anybody who has spent time in Palestine knows
that their humanity stands on its own. They will exercise and
experience calm only when they are offered real freedom.

They will contest the horror of relative calm until history
castigates the purveyors of mass graves and murdered children.

There is a dead baby stretched out on a wooden table in Lebanon.
There is a small child whose face was deformed by a soldier's bullet
in al-Khader. Let us hope that she will provide him with her
eyesight so he can cast his vision across our ignorance and condemn,
with searing precision, the relative calm inherent in our reaction
to ethnic cleansing.


Steven Salaita is completing an English doctorate at the University
of Oklahoma, with emphasis on Native, Palestinian, and Arab American
literatures. A West Virginian with Palestinian and Jordanian
parents, he splits his time between the United States and the Middle
East. Steven Salaita encourages your comments:
 ssalaita@YellowTimes.org


 http://palestinechronicle.com/index.php




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