Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Plight of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories

My maternal grandfather was Jewish. My great grandfather, grandfather, mother and uncle survived the Holocaust because my grandmother's Catholic family members hid them. But several of our Jewish family members perished.

As someone whose family members died in the Nazi Holocaust, one of the ironies I face is that the tables have turned. Today, the plight of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories shares many elements with the plight of Jews in the Axis countries during the 1930s and 1940s.

Since I saw The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on Sunday night, I have been mulling over its implications.

As I said in my previous post, I didn't care so much about the story's plausibility vis a vis the topic that it nominally addressed, namely, the WW II concentration camps. I was more interested in the message that the movie might carry for me ... where I am ... today.

I felt when I got home from the movie that I was being called upon to acknowledge my empathy for the Palestinian people more openly. Previously I had hesitated to do that because I had feared it would make me look like a flake.

But that's what authoritarian forces do. I saw it up close in apartheid-era South Africa, and I have seen it in several instances since. If you cause what they perceive to be trouble for them, they ignore you. If that doesn't silence you, they ridicule you. The fear of being discredited is enough to stop many people in their tracks. If you keep on speaking out, however, and if you are effective, the harassment escalates. In post-9/11 North America, there have been veiled threats, like the possibility of ending up on a No Fly list or worse.

In the case of some elements of the Israeli government, Israel's political allies abroad and much of the mainstream media in the West, issues deliberately are conflated so that critics of Israel's actions are portrayed as anti-Semitic.

My little gesture after returning from the movie -- my current equivalent of serving tea to the white electrician and his black assistant in two identical china cups and saucers -- was to join the B'Tselem group on Facebook. B'Tselem is a human rights advocacy organization in Israel.

Naming a situation that is inconsistent with my values just feels like the right thing to do.

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