(PINA): The cry of Palestinian despair has not reached most North
American ears. I sometimes wonder what the fathers and mothers of the
more than 300 children who have been killed by Israeli forces in the
last 17 months think of us North Americans.
Where I the mother of one of the three teenagers, Mohammad al-Madhoun,
Mohammad Lubad and Ahmed Banat, who were tortured to death on December
30th by IDF soldiers, I am certain that the brutally silent response of
most North Americans would have led me to the conclusion that American
and Canadian parents lack human compassion for anyone who is not one of
If I were one of the many pregnant women who lost their babies at
Israeli checkpoints in the occupied territories at the hands of
trigger-happy soldiers who refused to allow me to pass so I could reach
the nearest hospital, and the loudest commentary I heard from the North
American public was that Israel has every right to defend itself
against terrorist attacks, I would probably want to scream in agony and
hopelessness at North Americans, Why? Why? Why? You do not defend your
citizens from terrorism by terrorizing 3 million people.
Friends in Palestine, we, in North America, are not heartless. Our ears
our not deaf to your suffering. Or should I say, our ears would not be
deaf to your suffering if your voice could reach us. But understand
this - your voice of despair is so muffled or silenced by the time any
report of the nightmare you are living through, and dying in, reaches
us through our media that in essence we hear nothing, nothing at all.
When Israel sends tanks, F16 bombers and Apache helicopters to attack
your homes, we do not hear of the sleepless nights you endure holding
your frightened children in your arms as the war machines terrorize you.
We do not hear about the walls that crumble as a result of the shelling
turning living rooms into tombs for the mother and child who huddled in
a corner in fear.
We hear that Israel retaliated.
Sometimes we do hear of IDF soldiers entering your camps or
neighbourhoods with tanks and bulldozers, demolishing your homes.
And we shudder until we read the Israeli explanation - that the
demolitions are necessary for security reasons and that the demolished
structures had been used as cover by Palestinian gunmen targeting
Jewish settlers and soldiers.
In the end, the word that sticks in our minds is gunmen,” which we
associate with terrorists targeting innocent people and the good
soldiers who protect them. We rarely hear, however, that some of those
innocent people the soldiers are protecting are themselves extremists
and terrorists who are guilty of indiscriminate destruction of
Palestinian property, who shoot live ammunition at Palestinian homes,
burn down Palestinian shops, stop cars and beat their Palestinian
drivers, burn agricultural fields, uproot trees, open fire against
Palestinians at random and along with the soldiers who protect them
prevent ambulances from reaching wounded Palestinians.
Most of us don't know about the Jewish settler Nachum Korman who
clubbed 11-year-old Hilmi Shusha to death with a rifle butt. We do not
hear that Korman was sentenced by Israeli courts to a mere 6 months of
community service for murdering a Palestinian child.
Nor do we hear about Jewish settler Yoram Skolnik who in 1993 shot to
death a Palestinian as he laid on the ground with his hands and legs
We do not hear about the Palestinian women who have been beaten by
Mind you, we should know that the settlements and the occupation are
both in violation of international law and that Israel's violent
actions in the occupied territories have been condemned by the United
Nations many a time.
But many here don't know, or if they do, they have forgotten. I can't
remember the last time I saw a mention of the UN resolutions in any
mainstream news on Palestine or Israel. It's all portrayed, you see, as
an endless cycle of violence that, it would seem, is always started by
a Palestinian attack on Israeli civilians, followed by an Israeli
We do not hear of the daily asphyxiation you endure, imprisoned in your
camps and neighbourhoods as if you were cattle in a coral, unable to
take a simple trip to the doctor, or to attend university classes, or
work, or visit an ailing relative in a nearby town.
We do not realize that the checkpoints and blockades are in essence
hands around your necks squeezing the air of freedom from your lungs.
We do not hear of the beatings of Palestinians at checkpoints by
We do not hear of your fear to go out in the streets and become one of
the countless bystanders who is accidentally killed in one of Israel's
Or of the father driving home from work who is shot by Israeli soldiers
because he is a Palestinian.
We do not hear of the growing number of orphans. Nor of the weeping
mother begging soldiers to allow her to pass the checkpoint while her
child dies in her arms.
We do not hear about the paramedics and ambulances that are riddled
with Israeli bullets when they try to reach the wounded.
We do not hear of the children who seem to be wounded or killed almost
on a daily basis.
Instead, we hear that Palestinian mothers teach their children hatred.
We are constantly reminded that while Palestinian terrorists aim to
kill innocents, all Palestinian innocents killed have been unfortunate
And we believe it - even when the rare report from one of our
journalists reaches us that tells us in graphic detail how they
witnessed soldiers aiming at innocents, at children; even when those
innocents shot were our own journalists.
So when on March 7th an Israeli F16 dropped a bomb on the Palestinian
Police headquarters compound in Gaza City - which exploded within 200
metres of 3,100 refugee children in three schools United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) schools - we accepted
the proximity of the explosion to the children was an unfortunate
Of course, we did not hear that the police headquarters had been
reduced to rubble in five previous bombings. If we had, we might have
wondered, as perhaps some of you did, if the strategic purpose of the
bomb was to traumatize you and your children.
In fact, what we have not heard is that Israel has been long conducting
a slow insidious attack on Palestinian civilians, one that has now
exploded into a full-fledged war. What we do not hear is our own voices
which deep down know that if we were denied basic human rights to
citizenship, home, freedom, work, food and dignity, that if we and our
relatives and friends had been hoarded into refugee camps like animals,
butchered in massacres for decade after decade while the world remained
passive, we too would be driven to despair.
As word arrives in my email box that the Israeli army has stepped up it
ruthless war against Palestinian civilians throughout the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, killing and wounding hundreds of men, women and children, I
begin to share your despair.
Have the massacres begun? It would seem so.
I do not see retaliation, I see mothers holding back the terror while
enveloping their crying and trembling children with their arms, as if
somehow they could protect the young lives they so cherish.
I see the angst in the faces of fathers torn between staying with their
families or joining the resistance to stop the invasion.
And I hear the chilling cry of the dying and wounded, the bleeding, the
victims of this war on civilians.
Forgive me, my Palestinian friends, for as with most North Americans my
ears did not hear your suffering and despair until I took a personal
journey to reach out to the vast amount of documentation and reports
available on websites, international online newspapers, books, human
rights reports, email newsgroups, the UN.
The reasons for your despair have been well documented by international
and independent organizations, individuals, and grassroots groups...
And now, now that my ears are screaming with voices of Palestinian
despair, I can only scream in horror at our deafness and our silent
complacent lips in North America - even now, as we witness this latest
Israeli crime against humanity.
May you hear my voice of despair as it joins yours, and may all the
voices of people with conscience and humanity burst through the silence
and demand an end to the occupation before it is too late.