In the Land of Hayal’s and Shahids

Writing from Jerusalem

No one knows whether the Middle East is at the dawn of a new era with the accession of President Obama to leadership, whether between Obama, the new Saudi king’s very serious Peace Proposal, and President Assad’s keen interest in a peace process, that we are at the dawn of a strong consensus to finally resolve the central conflict of the region, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. We could also be at the beginning of a downward spiral of hatred, revenge, populist rage, military force, fanatical manipulation, and zero sum desperate final measures of power and destruction that will yield unprecedented human misery in the region. I cannot tell, honestly.

But I do know that we are all responsible for this. We are responsible in everything we say and do, and in every action that we support. The nonsense that corrupt leaders are to blame for everything is simply a way that everyone here evades responsibility for the permission they give leaders to act the way they do in the world. Every American has to take responsibility for what the American military has done, every Israeli must take responsibility for what its military does. And every Arab must take responsibility for what Arab governments and violent groups do in this region.

I am glad that there are global protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza. I like to see the practice of protest and the voice of masses being heard. I cannot agree to the rhetoric of demonization that so often characterizes such protests, however. They seem designed to isolate Israel as much as possible, further solidifying a decades’ long effort to delegitimize the state of Israel. I understand the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim desire to do so. This is a zero sum fight and they have deemed it beneficial to use hatred and demonization to push a political agenda of recapturing Palestine for the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the Muslims. This is a classic form of zero sum warfare and it has naturally created a counter-response from the pro-Israel Jews and Christians, as all zero sum warfare does. That counter-response of overwhelming political, economic and military force has been as awe-inspiring as it is destructive. This is where we stand with this endless cycle of violence, hatred and dehumanization.

This rhetorical and demonstrative effort of the Arab world to demonize Israel has worked slowly but surely. A country that in 1948 was voted by so many nations into existence, which was once considered a miracle of revival in the desert of an oppressed people is now considered by many millions of people, according to many polls, to be a war-mongering pariah state that is losing its right to existence. It is hard for Jews to imagine and absorb how many millions of people hate Israel and increasingly hate Jews for supporting Israel. They live in a different reality with a different set of facts. In fact, everyone here is living with a different set of facts.

I write from Israel and I am amazed at the sensitivity of the Jewish population when it comes to the death of each hayal, each soldier. When an eighteen year old kid in uniform gets on the bus he is addressed directly as hayal, ‘soldier!’. People pick up his cap lovingly when he drops it, and the bus driver jokes with him endearingly, as if this was his own son. He is as dear to them as the shahid, the martyr is to the average Palestinian on the street. These are our sacrificial lambs in the region. Hardly as gentle as lambs, but definitely sacrificed and beloved.

Every time the hayal dies and his biography is reported in detail in the paper, the eulogized last words of mother and father are reported in such a sober and respectful way. I ask myself what world I would live in if simply alongside the page on him there was a page on every one of his victims. I ask myself the same on suicide bomb victims in Arab papers. What if, alongside the shahid, every biography of his victims were also in the Arab papers. Who would we be? Who would we all be?

I am saddened by the outraged protests across the Middle East only because they are not for human rights, not for women and children, because they are absent when Arabs are the perpetrators, in Darfur, in Iraq, in New York, in Jerusalem.

This is a tribal war of demonstrations and deafening protests, screaming Jewish F16’s and howling Islamic missiles. The tribes are at war, but there is no conscience. And if there is a God of all humanity he must be in a state of mourning.

I wait in this region for a different kind of demonstration, for mass rallies for human life as such, for all children, for then we will see the dawn of a new age. And it will come here just as surely as it came to French and Germans in Western Europe, and to black and white in the United States and South Africa, and to the Christians of Ireland. I can see the mass gathering for humanity in the streets of the Middle East capitals but it is not here, I long for it but it does not come. I grow gray and sick and choke on the blood of the children, but still the new day is not born. I die but the dream is yet to live. This region seems alive, but it is dead, it is dead to conscience, to feeling, dead to love of all of humanity, for if you love only some then you are destined to become a murderer.

Israel is in a state of unbelievable sin that is as deep and profound as it is unconscious. But so is the Arab world that only gives a damn about Palestinians when Jews are killing them, that callously funded the deadly divisions in Palestine, and Lebanon, and Iraq, and Pakistan, but always with the face of absolute innocence and blamelessness. When I go to Syria, with the exception of my peace partners there, I never hear about the rights of Palestinians, only the scourge of the Zionists. I see hundreds of thousands on the streets of Damascus now, now that they have something really powerful to hate, the great demon of the Zionists. But where are the hundreds of thousands for peace, for building a new Middle East, for empowering the Palestinians to truly live equal and free, not die as martyrs?

Why are all my friends who are Israeli and Palestinian, who work for peace every day, becoming absolutely impoverished, why would they never get a dime from the Arab capitals? From the Arab foundations? Why all this breast beating and ringing of the hands now, all these cries of ‘holocaust’? Where were they when we needed them? Where were they when we are the only ones standing up to the militarists on all sides with a real alternative, with a moral alternative, with a spiritual alternative that was far more practical and effective than the dirty work of the hayals and shahids who kill children with such precision? Where are they all when we were doing the hard work, the impossible work of changing one soul at a time here, of softening one angry heart at a time? Where were they? For God’s sake, where are they now? We peacemakers are your only real hope, and we are dying here a slow death. I have stood with them for twenty five years in Jerusalem, year in and year out, astonished that the world ignores them.

One suspects that rage is the reason, for it is rage that moves the soul of protesters as much as it does the militarists, and that is why I do not respect their protests, from the United States, to Europe, to the Arab capitals. Ah, the righteous millions who brave the cold and rain to express hatred! If they want to be useful, if they want to leave more than a legacy of hate then let them come here. Let them support the change makers, let them stand in solidarity with the lovers. Let them come to Jerusalem, let them fund the change makers who are Palestinian, who are Jewish, who are Muslim, who are Christian, who are New Age, who are crazy, but who are all united in their unconditional love of humanity, love of all children, who love every single Palestinian and Jewish child, every single Arab and Jewish child that suffers the shock of bombs and who have been blown to little pieces here for thirty years now.

Let them come for the children. Because if they will not come here and stand with us, then hate is their essence, their state of sin, and all they want from us here is to be sacrificial lambs on the Satanic altar of their own rage, their shahids. And all the American Jews want of the Israelis is to give their children as hayal’s, to become murderers of children and be killed themselves.

This has been made into the land of hayal’s and shahids. Everyone the world over is responsible for making this a land of innocent blood-everyone except the children. Come to Jerusalem, take responsibility for your life, join with us, stop hating one side or the other, taste the coming day, and help us out of this hell.

A Shahid
A Shahid
A Hayal
A Hayal
© Marc Gopin