Driving along on an American highway earlier today in my car that smells of the suburbs, I heard a report on NPR about a demonstration in Gaza against the violence of the last several days. Peaceful Palestinian demonstrators gathered and several hundred of them walked through the streets calling for peace between the fighting factions. Did the fighting stop? Not at all. In fact, some people began shooting at the peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and killed two.
At the end of the piece, NPR had a report – more like an editorial – of a devastated Palestinian man, Hossam al Madhoun (be sure to click the Listen button because this is radio, after all) who was lamenting the violence and the deep setback it is inflicting on the Palestinians. He was deeply concerned for his 6 year old daughter whose future was being destroyed with the fighting which was destroying the hope of a Palestinian state, and predicted that it would take generations to heal what has happened in recent days. He then blamed the “West” and Israel for everything.
I was struck, however, by the power of his words, his strong evocation and call for peace and brotherhood. The tears bursting forth that you could almost hear over the radio. His call for the end to violence was real. His sadness at the madness of the killing and what had become of young Palestinians was that of a grieving man:
This has to stop; these young killers in the street are just boys. They’re 17, 19, and 21 years old. They’ve become killers and they don’t realize that they’re just being used â€” by both factions. They’re being used by the political leaders who are shouting every day on the satellite TV news shows. These so-called leaders in suits are the real killers, turning our boys into murderers.
It will take generations to recover from all this. It will take so long to change this violent culture we’ve become. If we start today, it will take years. It’s become so easy for any young boy to hold a gun and shoot. We now have a generation of damaged youth.
There were many brave people today in Gaza during the demonstration. They stood in the middle of the street â€” in the crossfire with bullets flying everywhere â€” telling the gunmen to “STOP, STOP, STOP!” Two people were killed.
In my opinion, the West is doing everything they can to weaken the Palestinian Authority. And Israel is, as well. All of their acts are aimed at Hamas, but they have also weakened Fatah, the more moderate faction here in Gaza. This is hypocrisy by the West and Israel as they steal the hope by tightening this economic embargo against the Palestinian people. Desperate people don’t think rationally. Desperate people turn radical. And that is just what is happening in Gaza.
And I thought to myself, Middle, he’s a good man. He’s a kind man. He’s the kind of person who could be your friend.
But I was also thinking, Middle, there is no peace because this good man who understands the ugliness of this violence and seeks to stop it, does not lament in the same way and does not call out for his Palestinian brethern to stop when the violence is directed at Israeli civilians.
Imagine, just imagine, dear Middle, I kept thinking, if there were a non-violent demonstration inside Gaza, attended by hundreds of unarmed men, women and children calling out for the end of suicide bombings, sniper attacks, Qassem rockets, and the denial of Israel’s existence. Imagine such a group calling out for peaceful negotiations and a compromise solution with Israel. Aah, then, I thought sadly, then my little Middle, then we will be on the road to peace and until that day, despite my deep sympathy for this man’s plight and despite my strong desire to help him, how can I see him as anything but a man who sees far less injustice when Israeli civilians are attacked? I mean, every single day he has the opportunity to speak out against Qassem rockets being launched at Israeli civilian neighborhoods. Yes, he speaks out like this when Palestinians are killing other Palestinians but where does he speak out when Palestinians target Israelis? And where are all the other Palestinians like him? Will I ever see a demonstration for peace and reconciliation in a Palestinian area?
Of course, if this is what I expect from him, I should expect no less from myself.