Monday, January 19, 2009

The Palestinians' False Friends

For three weeks, while Israel’s Air Force continued to demolish so-called Hamas infrastructure and along with it, the lives of innocent civilians who happen to be in the way, and while Hamas, which must have been well aware of its limitations and its capability, declared war firing rockets at the greatest military power in the region , the Islamic Republic of Iran did not remain idle. The newspapers were not short of sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza, and the ayatollahs seemed to be having the time of their lives. They delivered even more vehemently anti-Zionist speeches and fervently expressed their will to wipe the Israel off the map. Our beloved President Ahmadinejad, too, did not lose the opportunity to raise the Holocaust issue again, the topic so close to his heart that it has become his crusade since his presidency.

After three weeks, the show is over, Israel declared a one-sided ceasefire, meaning it can resume whenever it wants to; Hamas declare victory. And for us Iranians? Let’s see who will start shooting first!

In Tehran, the cradle of support for Palestine and the Palestinians, there was no sign of any spontaneous call for demonstrations and rallies by any of the activist groups, including the universities’ student groups, prior to the call by the government which took place during the third weeks of attack. The report came as some six thousand people gathered to protest Israel’s attack, though the rally turned into an anti-reformist demonstration when a few of the reformists showed up in solidarity with their Moslem brothers in Gaza. The slogan “Death to Israel” changed to “Death to Khatami” and “Death to reform,” indicating that the main target was to express anger against the domestic enemy and villains and Israel’s attack on civilian was merely an excuse, and those who participated in the demonstration were ready and prepared for such a diversion and were accustomed to using Palestinians as just a means for political gain.

My husband and I attended a rally in New York City the day after the first attack. To my surprise, some thousand people gathered along Fifth Avenue. I could see all kinds of people, mostly young, from a wide range of ethnicities, white, black, South Asian, old Commies, and, of course, Palestinians. A few young Israelis with placards reading “Do not kill!” and "Enough Killing in Sderot and Gaza" in Hebrew and a group of Ultra -Orthodox with their banners denouncing the legitimacy of the state of Israel were noticed. However, neither my husband Evan, who has a special talent in finding Iranians anywhere just like a magnet, nor I noticed the presence of any Iranians there. And none of our old friends who were active in solidarity with the Palestinians were present either. We might have missed some of them in the crowd, though one thing we did not miss for sure, was passion. That is hard to find these days in these kinds of events.

On our way back home, I asked him as to the absence of his old comrades at the rally and “the zeal and passion” under my breath. It seemed he did not hear the latter one!

“They gave up.” he said.

“Gave up what? They think the Palestinian do not need further support? Or they are just retired from activism?” I asked, and dropped the passion part.

“Neither one,” he continued “They very likely gave up because of the futility of their action.” (I was right, he had not heard me completely.)

Knowing him, I figured that “futility” was just a euphemism for the same feeling that has barred Iranians from any spontaneous demonstrations like the ones they held in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster or the other similar misfortunes, a sense of being abused and being cheated. Of course, we all are concerned when the lives of innocent citizens are jeopardized by any means, intentionally or otherwise; however when the life of the same innocent citizen is used as a means for attaining some political gain and when those innocent citizen, themselves, knowingly gave in to those abusers and call us further to support them and their abusers, I think sympathy gives way to a frustrating sense of humiliation.
It is so unfortunate that the intensity of Israeli’s aggression, and the brutality of its attack on defenseless people has created a situation where there is no room for any reflection other than blaming the aggressor and lamenting the loses. However, the recent ceasefire might be a good opportunity for us as outsiders, as well as the Palestinians to have a fresh look at the situation.

The whole situation in Middle East reminds me of an anecdote I heard once from Rabbi Sammy Barth. Once a college of rabbis made a summit to discuss the wisdom of creation. Was it wise of God to create such a world as it is, full of conflict, pain, and misery? After days of discussion and deliberation, they all unanimously came to the conclusion that, no, it was not so wise of Him to create the would as it was, and that it would have been much better if He had not done it.” Yet, they all decided, now that He has done it and now that the world is the way it is, it is our responsibility to make the best of it. Simple and naive as it might appear, was significant advice then, and always, in my daily encounter with life, political or else.

During the last thirty years which constitute the good part of my adult life, I have been so engulfed in Iranian politics that the turmoil of the rest of the Middle East would have been pushed into an obscure corner had it not been a prime interest of my husband and his friends. Learning a lot about the Palestinians and their cause through the venue they always chose, from the time they threw rocks at soldiers to the present, when they fire rockets at civilians, from the time that they had good friends around the world to the present time, when their old friends are tired and feel abused by their new friends and their political operators such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies and proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, I see more of them being misguided than having progressed.

We can appeal no end to analysis an analysis of the cause and effect of events, Hamas and Hezbolah as the effect of Israeli’s occupation, thousand of innocent people killed as a result of Israeli’s aggression, Mahmud Abbas’ having been weakened because of his moderation, Arafat’s failure because of his opportunism; we can spice them all by naming Israel whatever we want as we have done for the last forty years. Yet not only has the bloodshed and massacres not stopped, it seems violence has become the norm, and stirring emotions more of an issue than coming up with a remedy.

The cease fire may not be a good opportunity for Palestinians to reflect, though it is a good time for their well-wishers, particularly Iranian activists, to look with open eyes for a remedy rather than stirring emotions. It is a good time, after we lament the disaster, to remind the Palestinians that Hamas never did them any good, that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei do not give a fig for them or their cause; and painful as it might be, they should know that are mainly a political tool used only when they are needed. It might be helpful for them to know that the people of the world have many worries of their own, and with all due respect to their suffering, we ourselves are up to our necks in many miseries. We Iranians, for one, could hardly miss Khavaran’s nameless graves, the mass graves in Yazd and Hamedan and Shiraz and wherever else the regime tried to camouflage the human remains of their victims. We are not much better off than they are, we cannot even do or say anything about our condition without being accused of treason and losing our lives. We cannot have our elected government either before some self-appointed “better, all knowing” leader tells us whom we should elect. Yes, our Palestinian brothers and sisters should know that those who have occupied our homeland can not possibly be their saviour. Indeed we are in the same boat together the only difference is that while we row they just cry. Why don’t they stop crying and join us to row; we might reach a safe shore together, if they mean it at all. Or, just play deaf and continue to lament their fate.

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