FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
Wade Sikorski
Oil or Food? Notes From a Farmer Who Doesn’t Think Pipelines are Worth It
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of Vengeance
Hilary Moore – James Tracy
No Fascist USA! Lessons From a History of Anti-Klan Organizing
Linn Washington Jr.
Ridiculing MLK’s Historic Garden State ‘Firsts’
L. Michael Hager
Evaluating the Democratic Candidates: the Importance of Integrity
Jim Goodman
Bloomberg Won’t, as They Say, Play Well in Peoria, But Then Neither Should Trump
Olivia Alperstein
We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is
Jesse Jackson
Kerner Report Set Standard for What a Serious Presidential Candidate Should Champion
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Home Sweet Home: District Campaign Financing
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Latest BLM Hoodwinkery: “Fuel Breaks” in the Great Basin
Wendell Griffen
Grace and Gullibility
Cesar Chelala
Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says No to Democracy
Nicky Reid
Hillary, Donald & Bernie: Three Who Would Make a Catastrophe
David Yearsley
Dresden 75
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail