what we can learn from children

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i was looking at the unrwa website the other day when i stumbled upon the above drawing and a related story about palestinian children in the west bank and in al quds organizing to send relief to palestinian children in gaza:

The goods collected represent much more than their vital practical value of nutrition and warmth to those who receive them. These collections are an expression of strong feelings of solidarity and compassion.

Along with food and blankets, students from the Rosary school included letters to the residents of Gaza in their aid consignment. In these letters the students spoke of love, shared dreams and a longing for unity.

“I know my ink won’t be the balm to your wounds, but I must be with you at least in my soul,” wrote one student.

While another simply stated “your dream is ours, together we can build all our hopes.”

and this film from unrwa shows the damage inflicted upon unrwa/united nations facilities and shows the children, now back in school, who are still dealing with the lingering trauma, trauma that will likely last a lifetime especially because its source can not be eradicated in the foreseeable future:

what is important, for me, about this story is not what is being sent, or how much is being sent, but the fact that it is being organized and sent. the fact that these children see the suffering of their peers in gaza and want to help. it reminded me of when divy was younger how he always came up with the most insightful, compassionate ideas that were completely removed from the political blockages that render adults impotent. we can always learn so much from children and yet we so rarely listen to them.

this struck me especially because i emailed people in the administration of my university to do something similar: to organize a solidarity visit to the islamic university of gaza (iug) and to collect aid. my idea was shot down. it seems that the israeli-american designation of iug as a hamas institution (which, of course, it’s not) keeps people from wanting to act in solidarity as palestinians, as academics, as students. it seems that past israeli terrorist attacks on an najah university have faded from memory here. and who is to say that next week or next year a bomb won’t be dropped on an najah? palestinian schools and universities have always been besieged by israeli terrorists with american weapons. part of the reason i was shot down seems to be the perception that they are getting help elsewhere. but really, my desire to “help” was not so much that i think iug cannot rebuild without the assistance of its colleagues at an najah; rather i wanted this to be an act of solidarity. but i suppose that is too much to ask for. to hope for.

it is especially amazing that it is such a challenge to mobilize genuine solidarity among people, students, faculty, anyone, really, when every day we see new efforts to mobilize such solidarity for gaza on university campuses around the world. at glasgow university students are occupying their university asking for particular demands to be met in relation to boycott and divestment. likewise students at the university of rochester are occupying their university with similar aims. in the independent today they likened the energy on university campuses to 1968:

Around the UK, thousands of students have occupied lecture theatres, offices and other buildings at more than 20 universities in sit-down protests. It seems that the spirit of 1968 has returned to the campus.

While it was the situation in Gaza that triggered this mass protest, the beginnings of political enthusiasm have already spread to other issues.

John Rose, one of the original London School of Economics (LSE) students to mount the barricades alongside Tariq Ali in 1968, spent last week giving lectures on the situation in Gaza at 12 of the occupations.

“This is something different to anything we’ve seen for a long time,” he said. “There is genuine fury at what Israel did.

“I think it’s highly likely that this year will see more student action. What’s interesting is the nervousness of vice chancellors and their willingness to concede demands; it indicates this is something that could well turn into [another] ’68.”

and in basque country there are municipalities organizing to sever ties with the israeli terrorist state.

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i think that it is too much to ask for. yesterday when i was on my way home i noticed that the exhibit that i heard about had opened. i had heard that some students created an exhibit to illustrate the israeli terrorist aggression against gaza. so i went inside to check it out (all photos below and the one just above are from this exhibit). it turns out that just one student did the entire installation and he is from rafah. it was pretty amazing–he constructed an f-16 a tank, destroyed mosques and schools and homes. there were photographs down corridors of the murdered and massacred palestinians in gaza and lining the floor was an israeli flag that one had to walk over.

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there were also a number of large posters of people inside the exhibit that were not so terrific. they were all fatah posters. a huge one of yassir ‘arafat. and as you left a huge one of mahmoud ‘abbas. this was disturbing, but perhaps not surprising. the student who created the exhibit did it with the help of the student union and since hamas boycotted student elections there are no members of hamas in the student government. at the same time i wonder if it is too much to ask for to create an exhibit that honors all palestinians not just fatah.

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there were students who went into the exhibit with me, including one of my students, and they walked around with me and we talked as we looked at everything. but only my student knows who i am; the others thought i was just some random foreigner who knows nothing about palestine. so as i was leaving and looking at the abu mazen poster one of the other students said, “that’s our president.” and i said, “actually, since january 9th he is no longer your president.” and he proceeded to argue with me about this. i mean, it’s fine if you want to pay homage to a collaborator. if you want to pretend like a government under colonial rule can function like a real government. that’s your choice. and those are all opinions. but it is not up for debate as to whether or not abu mazen’s term was up one month ago. it is a fact. it is not something you can debate. so i wonder: is this student that uninformed about the policies of his own government-under-colonization or is he just unwilling to face reality? (by way of contrast look at how ‘abbas is treated in rome by palestinians.)

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i’ve noticed lately, too, that some friends and students are starting to identify themselves as “old fatah.” these are friends who were either raised on the values of the fida’ayeen or whose parents were in the resistance when it was known as the “palestinian resistance movement” or the “palestinian liberation organization.” these are friends who spent serious time in israeli prisons during the first intifada for their own resistance. but all of them yearn for a time when fatah was not collaborating with israeli terrorists. but if people are so willing to be so loyal to fatah, i wonder why that same loyalty cannot be translated to liberation and palestinian people in general. why just some of the people? while i understand why people want to make this distinction, i don’t see what purpose it serves other than a kind of nostalgia for the past.

notice that the children in the item i posted at the top aren’t identifying the children in gaza as fatah or hamas. they are identifying with them as children, as palestinians. oh how much we could learn from their example.

how can you watch clancy chassy’s video for the guardian, for instance, of mohammad al attar and his family whose home in beit lahiya was destroyed by israeli terrorists, who all live in a tent now, and see them as anything other than palestinian people. not as hamas. not as jebha. not as fatah. this is what children understand and what adults need to understand.

on another note, today is the 100th day of blogger hossein derakhsham’s detention in iran. and it has been a few days since blogger philip rizk has been detained in egypt. the previous links will take you to websites to get more information and see what you can do from where you are.

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