Friday, November 15, 2013

France Day 3: Palestine

Most Americans never see the abundance of world cinema existing outside their borders.Thus, it was pure pleasure to see a film at the Amiens Film Festival made by by a Palestinian who lives in Jordan -- not by choice but thanks to Israeli security forces who barred her from returning home to the West Bank; a punishment for making feature films about the lives of Palestinian refugees. 

The central character is a scrappy twelve year old living in a refugee camp in Jordan, determined to go back to his home in Ramallah, an impossible dream. Without going into the details, suffice it to say that what Americans watch on the news is strictly controlled and only gives a brief picture of refugee life. This film delves deeply into the suffering of a people who no longer have their land, their homes and now live in the dusty poverty of tent camps.

My ancestors came from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, persecuted and poverty stricken. And then of course the Holocaust. So as I watched this film about Palestinians driven from their homeland, anger steadily mounted in my chest.

How can the children of Israel inflict an apartheid policy on the Palestinians when they themselves suffered so greatly at the hands of others? How do they not have empathy? Are they like abused children who grow up emulating their abusers?

One of my Israeli acquaintances, a former colonel in the Israeli Defense Force, told me that the Jews of Israel are hated by their neighbors and must defend themselves against extermination once again. This too is true. But the situation has now become like the chicken and the egg conundrum, the answer yet to be deciphered. Palestinian children in Jordan think the word for a Jew is "army." In this etymological confusion, one can understand that humanity has now become buried in the quicksand of ignorance and trauma.

Peace and reconciliation can never be achieved without both sides laying down arms and vowing a detente. If Nelson Mandela could do it in a country where blacks and colored people were so viciously oppressed for 300 years, why not the Israelis and Palestinians? Peace is possible, but as long as both sides refuse to forgive, the nightmare will continue.

Ask me what side I am on in any one of the intractable conflicts in the world today and my answer will always be, "I am on the side of the peacemakers."

Leaves fallen from the tree

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