There has been so much written and said these past days about Israel, and Palestine. I engage in the discussions that always turn into arguments, to then fall silent, unable to express properly through the anger I feel, that the argument so swiftly turns away from what I feel is the real matter.
The matter of 7 million people who have lost their homes. The matter of so many who have lost their lives. The matter of so many who have lost home, life, and hope within a pressure cooker situation that in any sane society cannot be seen to be right. The matter of not being able to argue for these people without being accused of joining a historical argument against other people. When the real argument is not against, but for. For the right to live in your homeland as a free person, not in a prison that once was your homeland.
7 million refugees.
They are the matter.
During one of these conversations this week a fellow editor posted a video from poet Rafeef Ziadah and watching it, listening to her, she both calmed and completely shattered me.
He posted this:
I don’t feel like writing too much politically today on the struggle itself. I have done, before. But I am angry, and will try to channel this anger into a positive contribution. I feel like reminding myself, and all those who are arguing the politics and the religion, of who these people are, why this matters, why we need to stand up for the people of Palestine.
This is why.
The art of the storyteller is to stop the chatter, focus the listener, bypass the propaganda and the politics and reveal the story of the heart.
I’ve spent the week getting familiar with Rafeef’s work, including her beautiful 2009 album Hazeel, which you can buy from her website: http://www.rafeefziadah.net/
Last week Rafeef wrote this article, :
“Today marks 10 years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the construction of Israel’s wall and its associated regime in the occupied Palestinian West Bank – of settlements, land confiscation, separate roads, permit systems and movement restrictions – is illegal under international law.
Yet in the 10 years since the ICJ ruling, the international community has allowed Israel to act with utter impunity.
In the face of international inaction, Palestinian civil society called for a movement of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The aim is to build an international BDS campaign in the style of the South African anti-apartheid movement, in the hope of transforming the situation for Palestinians by putting the onus on ordinary people around the world to actively hold governments and corporations to account.”
We are being asked to take action by Palestinian civil society, and the diaspora of Palestinians scattered and displaced in the world. I think it is important to note this right now, that we are being asked for action and the reasons given for this request are very clear. With this in mind, it may be that we of the free western world may need to consider our responses to this conflict more carefully, and resolve to learn and listen more than share and question.
A couple of acquaintances of mine this week have been posting on Facebook and on Twitter articles of incendiary Israel propaganda in the name of “balance” and without engaging in the content they are sharing. I find this kind of ‘devil’s advocate’ behaviour obscene, coming from a comfortable person on the other side of the world. If a person cannot engage in an issue, then it is their right to disengage and focus elsewhere and I have no argument with them making that decision for themselves. It is better perhaps to be silent and open to learning than to contribute to the noise.
But if a person does engage, if they do add to the noise from all sides, they must be responsible for their contribution to the potential confusion of the truth and the potential hurt it may cause those who see it. We who are living well in our comfortable societies must be careful not to behave cynically when we are talking about people’s lives and homes a long way from our own. This week has been the most clear example to me of the erosion of personal responsibility that comes from the consequence-free environment of social media. Perhaps we are all new to this environment, and still learning the effects it may have. But anyone who thinks that their actions in cyberspace don’t deeply affect people are as foolish as those who think distance is a safety net. We must take more responsibility, we must be better, and we must learn again to listen, rather than speak for the sake of speaking. The stories need space to be told and heard, to find their way through the noise.
So, respectfully, of all people in the world viewing the struggles in the Middle East from afar I ask this: shut up, have some humility, let the stories get through, listen.
This video above is from Studio Revolt (I’ve linked their work before - their collaboration with Kosal Khiev).Masahiro Sugano from Studio Revolt filmed this video of Hadeel in 2012, in London – and said this, which I think states more eloquently what I’m trying to say today:
“The state of Palestine is the worst public relations disaster I’ve ever seen. They are the only people I know whose innocent ones get killed regularly by a military might and we seem strongly discouraged from feeling any sympathy for them. Palestinian kids are the original ‘collateral damages’. Hadeel is a poetry that reminds us of who they are.”
I feel enriched by the discovery of Rafeef’s poetry and activism, amazed that I have not discovered her before now. Along with Suheir Hamad she is a brave and important voice, a poet in truth.