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Palestinians need to act appropriately
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
July 19th, 2014 (11 Comments)
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Over the past couple of weeks, many of us Palestinians have been incessantly writing, posting, tweeting, and commenting about Palestine, Israel, and Gaza.  I have been no exception.  On July 9, I posted "Thank God Tariq is one of us," my take on how the American media and public can only connect with the beating of a Palestinian when he is an American.  And on July 15, I wrote "Israel never surprises me," a cynical description of how we Palestinians have become all too accustomed to Israel's treatment of us as subhuman.

As a result of those two writings, I received many messages from Jews, both Israeli and American.  Most of them were hate-filled and racist. I am used to those. They don't bother me at all.  But I received many more with a different feel.

Many Jewish friends, acquaintances, and former students wrote me with a similar theme:

"Amer, why are you being so polarizing?"
"Shouldn't we all just want peace?"
"Why don't you seek harmony?"

Should I avoid being polarizing?  Not if it makes people think.  Should I advocate for peace? That's kind of a silly thing to ask.  Do I seek harmony? I had to think about that one.  And I have finally come up with a response: "Not yet."

Now that I have answered those questions to the best of my ability, let me get to why I think these kinds of things are being asked of me at all.  First, many Jews, many more than ever before, are reassessing their personal relationship with Israel.  That is a good thing. And it has nothing to do with any activity on the part of Palestinians, unless you classify survival as an activity.  Those who are seeking peace, reconciliation, and understanding might be naive at this point.  But at least, it seems, we have moved past "A land without a people for a people without a land." But secondly, and more importantly, many Jews believe that Palestinians should be acting in a certain way.  Some ask for acquiescence, capitulation, and surrender.  Some want us to apologize.  And some want us to simply disappear.  Of course, Palestinians cannot provide any of those things.

But those who consider themselves liberal Zionists or mainstream Jewish supporters of Israel ask for something that they believe Palestinians can and should give them: accommodation.  They want peace of mind.  They want me to tell them that everything is OK.

Well, it's not.

After the murderous burning-alive of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem as he was waiting for morning prayers, forgive me I couldn't find it in my heart to say, "Give peace a chance."  After the Gaza beach massacre of the four Bakr boys, Zakaria, Ahed, Mohammed, and Ismail, as they were playing soccer, forgive me if I couldn't bring myself to say, "Can't we all just get along?"  And after the brutal slaughter of three more Palestinian boys, the Shahebars, Jihad, Fullah, and Wasim, who were feeding pigeons on their roof, forgive me if I didn't feel kinship, cooperation, and understanding.

Maybe they thought Muhammad had an ominous reason to be in front of that mosque.  Or maybe they thought the Bakr boys were launching rockets from their feet.  Or maybe, just maybe, they thought the Shahebars were training the pigeons to attack Tel Aviv.  There, am I now being "understanding" enough for you?

One might imagine, in light of all this, that a Palestinian might not feel harmonious at all.  I can think of many other emotions that might be more appropriate:

Rage.
Anger.
Defiance.
Sarcasm.
Contempt.
Fear.
Spite.
Anxiety.
Concern.
Dread.
Violation.
Loss.
Abandonment.
Despair.
Panic.
Terror.

But not harmony... definitely not harmony.

Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Mohammed Ramez Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mohammed Bakr, 9 - See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/details-emerge-attack-killing-four-children-gaza-1298891664#sthash.06cNteZh.dpuf
Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Mohammed Ramez Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mohammed Bakr, 9 - See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/details-emerge-attack-killing-four-children-gaza-1298891664#sthash.06cNteZh.dpuf
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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (11)
  1. This is perfect! I completely agree, it is so hard NOT to feel this way. Ya Allah help the people of Gaza! #Palestinesvoice #FreeGaza #FreePalestine

  2. Not necessarily disagreeing with you, but what about the 3 Israeli boys who were murdered? Why no outcry about that ? Why have they not been arrested since they are known?

  3. Dave with all do respect, the outcry for your three boys is happening now! 200+ Dead in revenge for your boys (who BTW) were killed not by Hamas but Israel.
    Israel’s outcry for your boys, was the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdair! Too many palestinian’s have been slaughtered for too long!!

  4. Dave, why have the murderers of the 3 settlers not been arrested? Good question! The answer that first comes to mind is because the Israeli narrative isn’t truthful.

    Otoh, Gaza is being bombed in retaliation for their murders, and I read that a suspect’s home was bulldozed. No trial, no nothing. Only revenge.

    Hey, let’s turn this around! Those boys shouldn’t have been there in the first place! Let’s blame the victims! After all, it works for Israel!

  5. Nancy Torres ... July 19th, 2014 - 13:39

    I think you’ve done amazing work. Some Jews are indeed reassessing their relationship with Israel. Amer, keep doing what you are doing. Always a supporter regardless if you seek harmony or not. I can’t really put my hand on who does anymore. Where does harmony comes in when humanity has lost it all…

  6. The struggle between the Arabs and the Israelis is similar to a game between two Soccer teams competing for one trophy. On the one hand, you have a team of individually talented players that don’t like each other and are out for personal glory. On the other side you have a team of skilled players that work together, are adept at breaking the rules, and have arranged for a member of their own team to referee the game. Which team do you believe will win the game?
    I have long given up on the Arab cause, because there is absolutely no hope of winning this war or achieving any peace. If you disagree, just go through the last set of events and ask yourself what has any of the Arab countries done to rescue the unfortunate people in Gaza. The Arabs are more concerned about Iran gaining regional influence, about killing the “other” heretical Muslims, and most of all about their own agenda/persona interest. The bearded barbarian thugs of ISIS are a great example of the hopelessness of the Arab cause.
    I wish the Israelis would have the decency and the courage to tell the truth and inform the Palestinians and the entire world that they want the land and want all non-Jews to find a way to leave, instead of pretending to want peace while allowing for “natural expansion” of settlement and implementing every possible policy to humiliate and oppress the people they have occupied for so long. May be they will even be kind enough to offer the Palestinians an opportunity for a quick death in a gas chamber instead of the prolonged torture they have been subjecting them to for so long. I never thought anyone could exceed the cruelty of Hitler, but the Israelis have done an excellent job of it.

  7. Hey Amer, great piece as always. One thing comes to mind when people ask these questions that they ask you. Comedian Russell Brand put it perfectly when he was accused of “supporting the Palestinians” he said it’s not necessarily about who’s right and wrong, nor is it about fighting terrorism. But in order to provide peace “the onus is on the side that has the overall power.” We all know who that side is.

    Keep doing what you’re doing Amer… Aziz Dwaik.

  8. Highlighting the pressure on Palestinians to “act right” activates associations of other times Americans have seen pressure on an oppressed people to “act right” in the face of their oppression: “the noble savage” “the good black person” etc… Those characterizations seem ridiculous today, partly because we can see the oppression for what it was. I hope that these comparisons inform how people see the pressure on Palestinians, which is pressure to seek only peace in light of conditions that would make most people want payback.

  9. Amer, I know all too well the mix of rage, hurt, disgust and hopelessness you feel. I think all Palestinians are feeling that right now. What makes me more angry than anything is there seems to be a lack of outrage in the Arab world. Am I wrong but I don’t see Arab leaders clamouring to condemn and speak out against this genocide. Shouldn’t every Arab leader be calling or visiting the US? I mean let’s be real, the UAE and Saudi Arabia could throw a lot of money in the form of aid to lessen the suffering. Our Arab leaders are more concerned with their bank accounts and vacations than they are with the Palestinians. Why dont I see news coverage of press conferences, harsh words and threats to stop doing business with the US! After all its the US really to blame here. We put on our superhero cape on and jump into conflicts all over the world, even when we shouldn’t. So why not now? I surely wouldn’t expect the oppressor Israel to stand up and condemn themselves! Its our government that is funding and supporting Israel, we enable the monster. I am heartbroken at the lack of outcry across the Arab world. I guess one more tragedy for Palestinians to endure and rise against. VIVA PALESTINE!

  10. Amer, I frequently forward your posts to American Jews and friends who work in coexistence.
    American, and other Jews I suppose find it hard to look with their eyes and hearts wide open, when it is met with scornful looks from our parents and grandparents who grew up with tattoos on their forearms and fighting for Israel to have a place. Did Palestinians put those tattoos there? No. Did foreign Jews push Palestinians out of their family homes to create Israel? Yes.
    Of course the answer is to look forward and not back, but that is a tall order for men (the royal men).

    We don’t want to look because then everything would have to change. Love is the way but creating is so much harder than destroying. It’s easy to blame and hate. It’s so very hard to learn and love.

    Sometimes your truth is hard to read, sometimes it is biased. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep telling it.
    American Jews find it hard not to want “Palestinians to act differently”. It’s just not as hard as having all your little brothers blown to bits on a beach.
    A strong Palestine would mean a strong Israel in the end. I get why Israeli’s can’t see that, but alhumdulillah I fell like more of us American Jews are starting to see that.


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