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And Back in the Holy Land...
by Fred Glick

 

As you can imagine, current events in the region are a big topic of conversation, not just here, but in the US as well.  On my recent trip there I was asked, often, what I thought about what was going on. 

 

Living in the region, much closer to the events, has forced me to look closer at things in which I never had much interest.  Though I grew up in a Jewish family, I have never felt the same kind of affinity for Israel so many of my peers did.  Politics have never been my primary, or even secondary, interest, particularly those of the Middle East.

 

But you live here, the events are there, in your face, it is impossible to ignore them.

What do I think about whatís going on? 

 

That the Palestinian people are screwed.  Their own leadership is vastly corrupt, their brother Arabs, while sympathetic, are not moved to much action of any kind, and the Israelis?  The Israelis would, by and large, appear to consider them a lower form of life, valuable perhaps as cheap labour.

 

What do I feel?   

Disgust.  Disgust based on expectations, perhaps unreasonable ones, but expectations that were based upon the values of the Jewish cultural identity as I understood it.  As I sat this last Passover with family and friends in Denver, reading the story of Passover and the explanations of the symbols before us, my unease grew:  how could not more people identify the plight and suffering of the Palestinian people with that of the Jews? 

 I had always understood that the lesson of the persecution of the Jews, be it in ancient Egypt or 20th century Germany, was that the Jews bore a special responsibility.  They were the conscience of mankind and had an obligation to speak out for the rights of the oppressed.  Jews played an important role in the civil rights movement in the US.  Some of apartheid South Africaís most hated opponents were Jews; of the six whites prosecuted alongside Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia treason trial, five were Jews.

 

That is, of course, not to say that all Jews have adopted the role.  The principal prosecutor at the Rivonia trial was a Jew as well.  Jews are individuals, they act upon their personal beliefs and I donít think that anyone, other than an anti-Semitic kook, would argue otherwise. 

 

So why is it that all Palestinians are viewed as terrorists?  How is it that so many of the people I spoke to in America, Jews and gentiles alike, could see nothing wrong with Israelís mass detentions of Palestinian males?  Over 4000 boys and men between the ages of 15 and 50 were rounded up and detained.  Just because they are Palestinian.

 

The stories are many.  One of them belongs to a Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Daraghmeh, working for the Associated Press who was taken into custody by Israeli troops when they conducted mass detentions in the West Bank city of Nablus.  But he was, as an Israeli Government spokesman said, not singled out for special treatment as a journalist.

 

Dan Seaman, director of Israel's Government Press Office, told the AP that "there's no immunity for journalists. He (Daraghmeh) is a Palestinian, and he was arrested like thousands of other Palestinians.  He'll be questioned, and if there's no problem, he'll be released."

Racism by any other name is still racism.  And no matter who commits it, for what cause, it still smells the same.

 After being held handcuffed and blindfolded for 20 hours he was released from an Israeli army camp and told to walk the six miles home, despite an Israeli-mandated curfew, beginning a journey that was to take him into the next day and include numerous encounters with Israeli soldiers.

 

The story, like all AP material, is copyrighted.  However, you should be able to find it on their web site (http://wire.ap.org/) by searching for his by-line or, e-mail me, Iíll be happy to send it along.

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Ready for more?
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