FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hearing is Not Like Seeing

by BOUTHAINA SHAABAN

There has been a story in the press recently about how Prince William, son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, spent a night on the streets when temperature was minus four (Celcius) in order to draw the world’s attention to the suffering of the homeless in the UK. The Prince’s companions spoke about how he slept, like the homeless, on cardboard, and how they were shocked by the suffering of the homeless in the cold. When movement slowed down in the city, drug dealers start moving around among the homeless who live in constant fear of being attacked. William’s friends were frightened when a rubbish collection vehicle almost ran over the Prince who was wrapped in a blanket.

What struck me about this story, besides the warm human feelings of Prince William towards the homeless, is that one should actually live a certain case of human suffering in order to know exactly what it means and how it feels. All the words in the world cannot convey the suffering people live, unless one goes through the experience itself, particularly when it has to do with hunger, homelessness, humiliation, torture, war or racist subjugation by a hateful occupation.

That is how I explain the inability of the “civilized” Western world to understand the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of occupation, oppression, killing home demolition and deprivation of freedom. Israel holds a strict blockade over three million Palestinians, prevents the world from seeing them or giving them food and medicine, surrounds them with concrete and steel walls. When it releases a few prisoners, it make it conditional on exiling them from their land and families, while forcing millions of them for the past six decades to live in far away refugee camps.

Can one stop and think for a moment of what it means to become a “refugee” in a country not your own, or “displaced and homeless” in your own; what it means to be blockaded like the people of Gaza, to live surrounded by concrete and steel walls?

When I read a headline in The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 12, 2009) which reads The Forgotten Palestinian Refugees,” I felt that there are people in the West – which has inflicted all this suffering on the Palestinians a hundred years ago – who have started to remember their suffering. I read the article only to find it a fabricated story about a young Palestinian in the West Bank called Yussuf Khoury. The author, one Daniel Schwammenthal, claims that this young man has experienced oppression at the hands of “Muslims” in Gaza because he is Christian. Imagine that this Schwammenthal felt no compunction for the suffering, oppression, massacres and wars the Palestinians have been subjected to for a hundred years by the Jews. Instead, he took advantage of Christmas to provoke the Christians in his country against “Muslims” in Gaza and provide the Israeli war criminals with a pretext for their crimes against the Muslims and Christians of Gaza.

Jesus Christ was a Palestinian who suffered oppression, suppression and pain; and the homes of his followers are still being demolished in Jerusalem. The number of Christians in Jerusalem and Palestine in general has never dropped except after the creation of Israel. They lived in Palestine for thousands of years until the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the American occupation of Iraq. Only then they started to be forced out of the East, the homeland of religions and prophets. The Wall Street Journal knows that most of the homes destroyed daily in al-Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem are owned by Christian families and that the number of Christians in Jerusalem was over fifty thousands, several years ago, while now they are no more than ten thousands as a result of the Israeli policies of displacement and Judaization towards which people like Schwammenthal are blind.

These days, the world’s celebration of the birth of the prophet of peace, coincides with the first anniversary of the barbaric Israeli war on Gaza, when Israel shelled the same civilian Palestinians – who are not only Muslims, but also Christians about whom Schwammenthal writes – with phosphoric bombs and killed and injured thousands of children. This Christmas, Israel killed six young Palestinians in their homes in Nablus, in front of their children and wives: Raed al-Sarkaji, Ghassan Abu Sharkh and Adnan Subh, and three of them near the Beit Hanoun checkpoint in Gaza.

What does the world say of these Israeli cold blooded crimes committed on Christmas day against innocent unarmed young people? After observing the inhuman conditions the Palestinians live under, former Dutch Prime Minister, Andreas van Agt, decided to speak out about their suffering. In an experience similar to that of Prince William, van Agt says:”The scales fell from my eyes on a visit to the Holy Land in the 1990s, when I found myself in occupied Palestinian territory. I was stunned by what I heard and saw. For a long time I had been blinded and speechless about the fate of the Jewish people in World War II. For a long time I thought that Israel could not put a foot wrong and transgress international law. That was my failure. The truth is quite different: for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians the founding of the state of Israel has turned into a disaster.” Hence he started Rights Forum which highlights Israeli violations of international law.

On the first anniversary of the brutal war on Gaza, Israel is still meting out collective punishment against one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza, still kills and arrests at will; nevertheless, all that concerns people like Schwammenthal is covering up the acts of Israeli war criminals and justifying their crimes through a fabricated story of an asylum seeker.

Chris Patten wrote an article titled “We are failing Gaza” in The Daily Telegraph (Dec. 23, 2209) calling on the world to take a position and lift the blockade off Gaza. Nick Clegg wrote an article titled “Lift the Gaza blockade” in The Guardian (Dec. 23, 2209) saying “The suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza is shocking”. A group consisting of 16 western NGOs said “the international community has betrayed Gaza and has not made a move to lift the blockade a year after operation Cast Lead”. These organizations called on European foreign ministers and the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to visit Gaza to see for themselves the impact of the blockade on the population one year after over 1,400 people were killed during the air, land and sea attack launched by the rulers of Israel, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak in the period December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 on Gaza Strip.

Other protests have been voiced by Richard Falk, the UN special coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories, who repeatedly stressed that honorable people, the governments of the world and the United Nations should award sufficient attention to the inhuman conditions under which Palestinians in Gaza live. He added that the suffering of more than one and a half million Palestinians, half of whom children, is caused by the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

How long can this disgrace go on? It is the holocaust of the 21st century; and all those who stay silent are accomplices in this crime. The international silence is a conspiracy against humanity; and Western leaders should follow in the footsteps of Prince William and try to spend a night in the open in Gaza like the homeless of operation Cast Lead in the hope that it would awaken their sleeping silent consciences which ignore a horrible and disgraceful reality that flies in the face of human values, religious values and international conventions.

BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail