FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Liberty and Justice for All?

Three weeks I spent in Israel and Palestine looking, listening, and learning have given me a new perspective on America’s Declaration of Independence from colonial rule and our 4th of July celebration of founding principles and ideals.

Israel and Palestine, together about the size of Massachusetts, routinely prove that violence always perpetuates itself in a circle without a beginning and also without, it seems, an end. Whether authorized by the state or enacted by fanatics who assume they are sanctioned by the self-righteous certitude of revenge, repeated violence numbs our sense of outrage. It also tempts victims to ascribe collective responsibility for individual deeds.

The lived experience and perspective of a new friend, Dr. Saida Affouneh, Director of the E-learning Center of An Najah National University, challenges my tacit American belief that we are all created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. Near the end of my trip, over fruit drinks in Nablus, the ancient Palestinian city once home to the Bible’s Good Samaritan, she asked about my preconceptions before visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territories, anticipating they might be those of an average American.

I admitted that I expected to encounter mass poverty, anti-American attitudes, and lives bursting with religion and fury. And, yes, I had promised my son to be especially vigilant while traveling in, we presumed, a dangerous place.

“And what have you experienced?”

“None of this. The popular images are grossly misleading.” In Bethlehem, strangers warned me that my backpack was unzipped: They didn’t want anything to fall out or be stolen in a crowded market.

Affouneh earned her Ph.D. at the University of Exeter in England. There, a man had tried to snatch her scarf. He was arrested and charged. In the end, she forgave her attacker rather than persist with her complaint. “When I have the chance, I try to live with people who are not Palestinian, not Muslim. I want to have my views challenged so I can learn and grow.”

Wanting her children to experience a new culture, she took Ibrahim, then five, to see Santa Claus in England. He knew he could ask for anything. “I would like 1,000 footballs, Santa.”

“That’s rather a lot for one child.”

“Oh not for me. For the children back home who play soccer by kicking stones.”

When Iyas, her oldest child, was 12 the family hosted a visitor who was Christian and older. The two boys debated theology until Iyas suggested, “why don’t we focus on the things we agree upon about Jesus rather than those we do not.” His mother hopes he will win a scholarship to an American university “with a lot of diversity. I want him to be a critical thinker and problem solver.”

Affouneh also recounted a chance airport encounter some years ago. Near the end of an engaging conversation, she learned the other traveler was returning home, to Israel. Where had her parents been born? The United States. And her grandparents? The United States.

Affouneh’s own parents and grandparents were born in Palestine, but she cannot visit ancestral lands in what is now Israel. Despite having forebears in Jerusalem thousands of years ago, she cannot visit there without advance permission by the Israeli military, which is usually granted for 24 hours only, if at all. Affouneh laments that she and the stranger would not have connected as human beings if they had begun their conversation with their national identity or geographic heritage. The Law of Return gives Jews throughout the world the right to Israeli citizenship, but Palestinians have no parallel Right to Return to family homes or olive groves located in what is now Israel.

She knows the preconceptions I confessed are not unusual and asks me to tell others about my experience in Palestine:

“Our children deserve to play. They deserve a good future, a good education, a better life.

“We don’t want our children killed.

“We don’t send our children off to be killed.”

“We are not terrorists.

“We want to live our lives.”

In the aftermath of the 4th of July celebration of our independence, freedom, liberty and justice, I wonder if these are universal rights all humans deserve. Or, instead, are they limited American ones?

More articles by:
August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail