Growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, it was a very familiar encounter: Israeli soldiers storming our house accompanied by shouts of terror and a barrage of insults. Such recollections make me shudder to this day.
Just the mere summoning of those memories of my childhood in the Nuseirat refugee camp haunting me not only in childhood but in my adulthood as well, shall most likely accompany me for the rest of my life – almost instantaneously forcing me to relive my motherâ€™s agonizing cries, my fatherâ€™s pleas for the welfare of his children, my brothers and I clutching to each other as the soldiers try to break us a part, the physical degradation, the verbal abuse, then the utter silence when the soldiers finally leave, the sounds of the engines fading away into the campâ€™s darkened roads, followed by far away screams from some other family in some other place, as the tragic scenario faithfully repeats itself.
My familyâ€™s house was positioned in a location that was simply a nightmare, since it stood at the helm of the campâ€™s main square, often referred to as
I grew up making the association between â€œYahoudâ€, the Arabic word for â€œJewsâ€, and the horror my family and had experienced. When my cousin Wael was shot dead in his teenage years, while on his way to study with me- it was the â€œYahoudâ€ who killed him. When my childhood friend Raed Munis was shot repeatedly as he dug a grave for a neighbor of ours, shot just an hour earlier, he was killed by the â€œYahoudâ€. When my mother was struck in the chest repeatedly by the butt of an Israeli soldierâ€™s machine gun, a beating that led to her untimely death 50 days later, that too was carried out by the â€œYahoudâ€.
Palestinians in the
But, of course, itâ€™s not always as simple as that. When I moved to the US, I realized, correctly that the term â€œYahoudâ€ is not befitting, for the old connotations of the name cannot be accepted in Western societies where Jews have historically been a recurring victim, and where a large number of activists and fellow writers, of which many became close friends of mine are also Jewish. A distinction between a Jew and a Zionist was indeed an imperative, though not always easy, for Israel extorts much needed financial, political, moral and other forms of support relying primarily on Jewish constituents in North America and Western Europe. Many of the latter demonstrate their allegiance to
However, instead of confronting the Zionist scheme that has brought such untold harm to the image of one of the greatest and oldest monotheistic faiths by holding Israel and its associates to account, there is a growing an alarming trend where members of the peace and justice movement have themselves fallen into the ominous trap: engaging in most ruinous and consuming scuffles, isolating members and entire groups for allegedly being anti-Semitic. While taking a moral stance against racism in all of its forms is a requisite to for any genuine peace and justice activist, the intense debate in some instances is reaching such grievous points that is threatening to tear apart the peace and justice movement.
A most notable example is the quarrel in the
There are many Palestinian children who are still huddling inside their homes in fear of the encroaching tanks and the hordes of unforgiving soldiers, who continue to commit untold atrocities in the name of the â€œJewish Stateâ€; itâ€™s those depraved individuals and the government that has assigned them to their vile mission, who deserve to be isolated and labeled; itâ€™s Israel who must be held to account, by Jewish and non Jewish individuals and groups alike, to end its exploitation of the Jewish people and their religion.
I believe that the action of a true peace and justice activist must stem from concern for humanity, not from racism and prejudice; however, to suppress freedom of expression, settle personal grievances at the expense of a most colorful and ideologically diverse movement, thus the honorable cause it stands for, is to do an immense disservice to all of us concerned with bringing to a halt a most bloody and raging conflict in the Middle East
According to the World Food Program (WFP) forty-six percent of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are food insecure; the Israeli wall is snaking around the West Bank at an astonishing speed; human rights violations are committed against vulnerable Palestinians with impunity in broad day light with tacit or explicit support from various Western countries led by the United States; there is no time to be wasted: all energies must be channeled in so prudent a way to stop Israelâ€™s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and end the occupation. I plead to all of you, to work for peace, to redress injustice or at least to do nothing that would jeopardize the work of the peace and justice movement, neither in
-Ramzy Baroudâ€™s latest book: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronology of a Peopleâ€™s Struggle (Pluto Press,