Letters from Palestine – Palestinians Speak Out about Their Lives, Their Country, and the power of Nonviolence. Kenneth Ring and Ghassan Abdullah. Wheatmark, Tucson, AZ, USA. 2010.
Kenneth Ring’s writing on Palestine has already received just praise, as it is another in a series of recently published works that cry from the heart of Palestine.* And while I have read many other books on Palestine, “Letters from Palestine”, as with others that are set within a personal context, brings forth the undying hope and resilience of the Palestinian people in the face of severe hostility from Israel and a careless disregard from most of the western media and governments.
The injustices perpetrated by the Zionists of Israel, supported by the awkward and embarrassing sycophantic participation of the U.S. government (read also military and corporations), cannot endure forever. It is from these letters from Palestine that spring the message that the Palestinians will not grow old and die off so that there will be no one left to remember that there was a Palestine. There is life. There is hope. There is memory.
What really impressed me as I read was the general youthfulness of the writers, second and third generation refugees and residents who carried the memories forward. Not just memories of their own horrible experiences, but the memories of their parents, and their parents before them. Combined with that youthfulness is an eagerness for education, recognition that education is a means to escape the misery of the occupation, to better one’s own life, but also to contribute back to their people, their ancestors, and the land they lived and worked on over thousands of years, “Palestine lives in its children.”
Most ‘Americans’, if one truly includes the Americas of the central and southern geographies, are well aware of the violent nature and ill intentions of governments backed by the government of the United States. They are also well aware of the manner in which the United States ignores international law in any area that gets in the way of its ideological desires. Further, they are aware of the covert, subversive, and torturous methods that they promulgate in order to achieve their ends.
The Americans that need to read these letters are those within the United States (and Canada). U.S. citizens in general are poorly educated on global matters, facing a highly biased and uncritical public media of all print and visual formats, and inculcated with the ‘American’ rhetorical ideals of militant patriotism – a supposedly natural superiority over all other nations of the world, and the fearful creation of the ‘other’ – formerly communists, now terrorists – that permits psychological immunity to the terror of killing masses of civilians in other countries.
These letters are addressed to the public of the United States:
…the intent of the book is to put “a human face” on the abstraction, “the Palestinian people,” so that an American audience can see them as individuals who have to confront, with courage, humour, and pluck, the often impossible and impossibly cruel conditions imposed on them by the Israeli governments, the settlers, border police, the [IOF], and other agencies of Israeli social control.
….it was already clear that it was principally the support of the United States that was making all of this possible. Americans, and especially many American Jews, were Israel’s best friend and its bank. [And, as mentioned recently in “Quicksand,” the need for the Jewish voting block to succeed in domestic elections.]
The letters from Gaza are strikingly heart-rending, as they remain filled with a seemingly irrepressible spirit in the face of stark outright breaches of humanitarian and international laws of all aspects. The descriptions are briefly graphic, describing but not dwelling on the horrors of mutilated corpses and smashed buildings and infrastructure.
They also raise the aspect of Egyptian complicity with the Israel siege of Gaza. Egypt, similarly as Israel, receives massive amounts of U.S. foreign aid, most of which goes to supporting the dictatorial government of Mubarak and his cronies. In return, Egypt keeps the Gaza border at Rafah closed and under strict surveillance, and as indicated by one writer, “We have a new Checkpoint Charlie today [from formerly communist East Berlin] and it is called the Rafah crossing.”
Gaza remains under siege today. Anything that one could think of as being wrong within a modern society exists within Gaza today because of the Israeli blockade and imprisonment of 1.5 million refugees and Gazans. What remains is the spirit of the people, courageous, humorous, bitter, raging but not hating, despondent, grieving, and, above all, resolute in survival against one of the most technologically advanced racist societies in the world today, supported by its toadying U.S. super-hero. “It is time for a world Intifada (uprising against injustice). It is time to do something concrete.”
Obama and Clinton speak with double-edged meaningless words, and their overriding necessity is of currying the Jewish/Israeli vote and money within the U.S.; hopefully they too will read this work. I doubt that it would change their thinking, but hopefully at least make them aware of what others are thinking…and that perhaps much of their own constituency may be informing themselves as well. Their lies and propaganda about humanitarian freedom and democracy are all contradicted by the reality of U.S. actions in invading and occupying other countries and in supporting many non-democratic and racist governments that support their own geopolitical goals.
In the meantime, Letters from Palestine is series of powerful personal encounters with the thoughts and emotions of the Palestinian people, the youth of Palestine, who will carry the memory and activism in support of their homeland forward.
* Two other excellent works of personal accounts (and there are others) are Ramzy Baroud’s My Father Was A Freedom Fighter and Richard Wiles’ Behind the Wall. Combined with the current work, this trilogy would help enlighten any individual who was interested in the personal context of the occupation and abrogation of international law in Palestine, as seen from perspective of the people of Palestine themselves.