This morning I awoke to the sound of news and police helicopters overhead. It has become a daily constant over the past week or so. Just a 10-minute walk east of my home is an Israeli consulate; a 10-minute walk southeast of my home is the district headquarters of the senior senator from my state. People in my area are protesting the events in the Middle East, and news reports claim most of the sentiment, even among some Jews, is pro Palestinian.
The situation in Gaza has been a subject of heated debate among both my American and my Middle Eastern friends. Amongst the former, there seems to be a massive case of compassion fatigue, though no one is taking any pleasure in knowing of the humanitarian toll on both sides. One of my friends, a well-traveled and normally circumspect physician, told me she can't wait for Hillary Clinton to assume the post of Secretary of State, travel to the region, and "crack some heads" until there's a peace agreement. My recently-departed friend, Dan Kliman (see my immediately-preceding blog post), would surely be counter protesting if only he could.
Amongst the latter, there is anger, distress, grief, sadness, and some hopelessness and despair. There have been a number of government-sanctioned protests in Jordan (there is no freedom of assembly in Jordan, so government approval must be sought), a country that is approximately two-thirds Palestinian, due in no small part to the events of 1948 and 1967. One of my 20-something friends refuses to participate, correctly observing that past protests have accomplished next to nothing. Instead, she is using her gifts of artistry and musicality to support the cause. Others are organizing food, clothing, blanket, medicine, and fund-raising drives in order to send relief supplies to the beleaguered Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
As for me, of course, addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis is foremost. I know people on both sides of this struggle, so it feels intensely personal. Though I have never traveled to Gaza, I have visited Israel and the West Bank on multiple occasions. Both are small. Puny even. If there were no check points or border controls, I'm guessing one could drive from Amman to the West Bank and on to Jerusalem--a city holy to people of all the major monotheistic faiths--in about an hour. If everyone in the region were forced to wear a uniform, it'd be next to impossible to identify who is Israeli, who is Palestinian, who is Bedouin, who is Egyptian, who is Lebanese, who is Jewish, who is Sunni, who is Shi'a, who is Christian. Most of the people in the region are Semites. Regardless of what has been transpiring in the region for longer than I've been alive, they are brothers and sisters.
On an official level, I see no heroes in any of this. There seems to be a leadership vacuum.
I am thoroughly disgusted with American policy in the region. We, with our taxpayer dollars, are propping up despotic regimes and turning their subjects against us. The largest recipients of American aid are Iraq, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. And most of that aid is used to fund, not humanitarian and human rights programs for the unwashed masses living in abject poverty under oppressive rule, but arms, military, secret police, security, corruption/wasta, and massively extravagant lifestyles for the ruling class.
I am disgusted with the EU, which conveniently and continually lets the United States take most of the heat for what is wrong in the region, when history clearly indicates the problems pre-date America's rise as a superpower. And I am also disgusted with the EU for sniping at and at times undermining us, while never quite themselves offering up ideas and solutions or risking much in the way of their lives and treasure in pursuit of peace.
I am disgusted with the British and the French leaders who colonized the Levant, then, with the Balfour Declaration, carved it up in ways that make no sense, installed and funded puppet regimes, and created the conditions and processes that led to what we're seeing today.
I am disgusted with the Germans, particularly one Adolph Hitler, for the Holocaust, which led to the need to establish the state of Israel.
I am disgusted with Israeli leadership, not for the existence of the state of Israel, but for perpetrating on the Palestianians what the Nazis perpetrated on them during the dark days of World War II.
I am disgusted with Palestinian leadership for failing to act in the best interests of the people they are supposed to be serving. Some have said the late P.L.O. leader Yasser Arafat never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, though the same could be said of any number of Palestinian leaders. And I am disgusted with the Palestinian people for electing Hamas in Gaza, for the results of having terrorists as leaders were wholly predictable.
And, last but not least, I am disgusted with Arab leadership for being dishonest, greedy, hypocritical, illegitimate, manipulative, morally and fiscally corrupt, oppressive, repressive, and thuggish to their own subjects. To cite just one instance (and not to pick on the Jordanians, but theirs is the situation I know best), during Black September, a 1970 civil war in Jordan aimed at overthrowing the regime, the late King Hussein's army and henchmen murdered approximately 5,000 Palestinians out of a total Jordanian population of 2,200,000 (you may read an account of this at Time's Web site at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,909620,00.html). Imagine if George W. Bush ordered the murders of over 680,000 Americans, simply so he could remain in power. And yet the son and heir of the late king, King Abdullah, and his Palestinian wife Queen Rania are now crying crocodile tears for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza (see, for example, "Jordan Condemns Incursion" at http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=13234, "International Silence Unacceptable--King" at http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=13236, "Our Humanity Is Incomplete Without Humanity of Palestinians--Queen" at http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=13282). The hypocrisy, the hypocrisy!
The small ray of hope I see in all of this, the apparent appearance of an eyelash on the pony buried in all this (pardon my French) shit, is that there is intelligent discussion in parts of the Arab blogosphere about their own culpability in the present situation and, more importantly, what can be done about it. There is recognition that perpetually playing the victim card not only isn't working, it isn't honest. There is acknowledgement that their unelected leaders are concerned mainly with their own survival and that of the cronies and hangers on who support them. Perhaps these seem like minor things to those who live in freedom. But many of these bloggers reside in countries where criticizing their leader and the government is an offense punishable by fines and imprisonment. So they are acting with courage. Their courage gives me hope. Perhaps there is an up-and-coming Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi in the Arab world. Inshallah.
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