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Compassion and Loss in PalestineDr. Mazin Qumsiyeh Salem-News.com
A terrible crash in Palestine claims the lives of nine kids, and Khader Adnan crosses day 60 in his Hunger Strike.
(BETHLEHEM) - We had a really bad day today. Nine Palestinian very young children were killed and 40 other kindergarden children injured (some severely) in one horrific fiery traffic accident today and another child was killed in a separate traffic accident.
The day started with me breaking a glass and then having to talk to a lawyer about a notice I just received to go to military court on 1 April (more on this later as it becomes clear what I will be charged with). Then I am rushing to do interview live on an international TV station then driving to Ramallah for an important meeting and then to my afternoon classes at Birzeit University.
Well, I never made it to the Ramallah meeting because the road was blocked for this horrific accident; an Israeli licensed trailer truck (driven by an Israeli Arab citizen) carrying fuel hit the Palestinian bus carrying children on a trip head on and the bus turned over and burst in flames (the bus burned not the trailer!). This happened near the Palestinian village of Hizma and the villagers rushed to save the children. The Israeli cars could double back and go through the wall on the Israeli only roads.
We in the Palestinian cars had to wait as ambulance after ambulance took the dead and injured away. Below are links to picture and video (some of the video was rightly blurred so that the disturbing images of burned children are not seen). A person also sent me a link to Facebook pages in Hebrew where some sick Israelis thank God these were Palestinian Children (also see below).
But I also saw very kind comments by Israelis on the liberal Haaretz (though this also has anonymous ugly comments some could be misrepresenting who they are or trying to create division). This made me really angry that a tragedy that saddened so many decent people (Jews, Christians, Muslims etc) is used in ugly fashions.
Forgetting about my own personal troubles, I thus started to think based on the issue of compassion and dignity more. A story like this should generate compassion and it certainly helps us identify decent human beings (like the Israelis and Palestinians of all religions who helped save the lives of so many children).
But why did so many ignore it or feel no compassion because it is not their children or belong to their self-identified (fictional) group. A 33-year old Palestinian Khader Adnan is on his 61 days of hunger strike (because he is held without charge in so called administrative detention by Israel). How many will care if he dies or care now about him? Regardless of his background, isn't he someone's husband, someone's father, someone's son, someone's uncle?
Below is a letter from a friend about Khader Adnan's situation. These and other stories that break our hearts do not seem to elicit even a blip of compassion and care from millions who may tangentially hear about these things. Some people say there is "compassion fatigue" among some of us but I disagree.
I believe once you have true compassion for fellow human beings you can never tire of it; compassion here is defined as compassion for all human beings not selected members of your "tribe", "nation", "religion" or other concocted group identity (to me this is the opposite of compassion).
Eleven years ago (4 June 2001), I published this letter in Haaretz titled "Sincere condolences" about another tragedy which is relevant here:
*"Upon hearing the news of the wedding party turned to tragedy by collapse of the building in Jerusalem, my shock and sadness were intense. It only got worse and turned to tears when I later saw the video footage and read about the alleged construction problems.
The video footage reminded me of the footage of my sister's wedding. I was touched by the ordinariness and beauty of this event and then the tragedy that ensued. I grieve for the victims and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and with you all. Please accept my sincerest and humble condolences.
I am a Palestinian American who works for human rights, including the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes and lands. I believe that all people of Israel/Palestine must and will eventually live in one democratic and secular state with a constitution that protects all its citizens and treats them equally. We are so similar and it is a shame that political ideas (Zionism and other forms of nationalism) divided us.
In 1967, as a 10-year old child in Beit Sahur, I witnessed something that still touches me to this day - a reunion between my grandfather and his Jewish best friend from high school. Two old folks who had not seen each other between 1948 and 1967. Two old folks who cried like children. Both are gone now. I thought of this, and how much I miss the wisdom of my grandfather as I saw the recent events and the tragedies and the victims of violence in our homeland.
My grandfather wrote to me in 1974 that if he was to give me one piece of advice for the future it would be to realize that the world changes and that we have to remove our own shackles, which come to us from society and culture. It is time we started thinking and reflecting carefully on the futility of separation, nationalism, and militarism. It is time to insist on and teach ourselves to live together in equality and humanity.
If the Berlin wall tumbled, Apartheid in South Africa was dismantled, and Europe is unifying, why can't we do the same? Imagine if the billions of dollars we spend on weapons were spent to better our economies, desalinate sea water, develop closer relationships and friendships, and provide therapy for the over 17,000 injured in the recent violence. In the midst of our tragedies, let us work together for a better world. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.
Below is a letter from a friend about Khader Adnan's situation...
*"I haven't been posting about Khader Adnan, a Palestinian political prisoner who entered his 59th! day of hunger strike today, because, to my shame, I felt overwhelmed, and I had no idea how to stir any reaction in you, how to make you understand that a man is dying, how outrageous this is.
It felt so insufficient to just keep writing some emails that you'll probably not read, although i receive emails and posts about him several times a day. how do we make the reality of the immense abuse, murder, massacres etc of people in our area in any way clear to so many who have been told for too long that this has nothing to do with them, that this is "unfortunate", that "these things happen". if they happened to your brother, you would scream in outrage. but somehow, there is this wrong feeling that these things won't happen to "us" - a feeling that is based on a very shitty perception of all the victims of these crimes as somehow "others" - they are not us. we can't identify.
And i can't help but write that any such feeling of "this has nothing to do with us" - together with the reality that if it did happen to any of "us", you WOULD feel outrage - is possible because there is somewhere the notion that your rights don't apply to "them", or maybe, they are less than, less human, or maybe they have done SOMEthing to deserve it? Because how can these things happen? I am sorry that I am attacking you, my friends and family, in this condescending and presumptious way.
I am dispairing, I don't know how to make you react - forget react, for one moment, how to make you REALIZE, ACKNOWLEDGE, FEEL - any more. But here I am trying again, though in this pretty cynical way: Khader Adnan is entering his 59th day of hunger strike to protest his "administrative detention" (meaning they imprison him without even charging him with anything, without the prospect of a trial and the possibility to defend himself, without letting even his lawyer know WHY they are holding him, etc.) and the outrageous treatment he received at the hands of the Israeli military/security/police etc forces (torture, denial of rights, humiliation, etc.).
If you don't know what 59 days of hunger strike mean - I am afraid every day to read he has finally died. He is in hospital, chained to his bed, still denied all kinds of rights. And yesterday, an Israeli court - after having POSTPONED the hearing of his lawyer's appeal to a decision that he will stay in administrative detention until May 8 - decided that in spite of his condition, HE WILL REMAIN IMPRISONED UNTIL MAY 8. THIS IS A DEATH SENTENCE. Since day 45 of his hunger strike, Adnan could die any moment. The judge furthermore argued that it is ADNAN WHO IS TO BLAME FOR HIS SITUATION."*
Striving to stay human
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD - Popular Committee to Defend Ush Ghrab (PCDUG) "A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home. Mazin is a Professor in Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, pcr.ps. He has been an Associate Professor of Genetics; Director, Cytogenetics Laboratory at Yale University School of Medicine. He previously held a similar position at Duke University. Professor Qumsiyeh has authored over 110 scientific papers in areas of mammalogy, biology, and medicine including mammalian biology and evolution, clinical genetics, and cancer research. He has published over 100 letters to the editor and 30 op-ed pieces in International, national, regional and local papers on issues ranging from politics to environmental issues. His appearances in national media included the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, CNBC, C-Span, and ABC, among others. He is the founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation and ex-President of the Middle East Genetics Association, and Prof. Qumsiyeh won the Jallow activism award from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. Those are just a small list, visit Mazin Qumsiyeh's amazing and informative Website to learn more: qumsiyeh.org.
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