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March 09, 2002
We Are Not Deaf, But We Cannot Hear

By Alexandra Lopez-Pachecoin


(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 their own.

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 bound.

We do not hear about the Palestinian women who have been beaten by settlers.

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 retaliation.

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 Israeli soldiers.

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 extra-judicial assassinations.

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 accidents”.

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 accident.

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.

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