Monday, August 14, 2006

To L.,

I ran into a wonderful friend of mine today. As she describes herself, L. is a middle aged woman who is running around trying to support her twins, to keep a marriage working, a carrier running all while trying to keep her moral high in this ugly world she has to wake up to every morning.

We used to talk about politics whenever we would run into each other in the lunch room. She would ask me about my country and the recipe I used to prepare my lunch. She tells me she talks about me to her friends telling them proudly that she, a hard core Jewish lady with close ties to her family in Israel, has a friend from Lebanon, a funky graduate student who has a piercing wherever is possible (even though I don’t) and who has a different hair color every week (another slight exaggeration) and who shaved her head in solidarity with the people of Iraq (...).

My friend is a peace activist whose eccentricity and defiance go as far as refusing to shampoo her hair because, according to her, this is another marketing scam. L. says, “Why should I use a strong detergent to strip my hair of its natural oils and then go and buy those commercial oils to regain conditioning to my scalp?” It makes sense biologically speaking but the idea horrifies me esthetically. She introduced me to ‘Women for Peace’, 'Jews against the occupation' and ‘CodePink’. We criticized the Bush administration, shared our frustrations towards the growing uncontrollable imperialism in the US and the unconditional support of the right-winger neo-cons to the Israeli politics, controlled by the Israeli lobby and serving corporate America while the rich gets richer and the poor poorer.

We feared the disguised modern day colonialism of the US/Israel lobby fueled by the anti-Islam propaganda that resonates well in the west is made even possible by puppet-like dictators planted in eastern countries where the population is poor and the resources are privatized and that it keeps unraveling under the holy war on terror of the catholic apocalyptic crusaders. We feared that, as far as the Middle East goes, the US support to Israel is bad news for the Muslim world and for real Jews. Jews who scream not in my name to the horrors that are being committed in Palestine and Lebanon. She feared for her children to the growing resentment of the world to the legacy they leave through Zionist Israel that is an extension of the fascism growing in America and that was and remains to be a state of terror that breeds hate for generations to come.

When the war on Lebanon started, I ran into L. in the hallway. The minute she saw me she started crying. My friend was in fact sobbing to the point where I had to comfort her, and then I started crying myself. We ceased to be two persons with opinions and resentments. Two people who feel suffocated and angry at the funding cuts for science, at the ‘intelligent design’ wave, at the fake bipartisan democracy, at the biased propaganda. We were two hurt women, suffering for all the pain in the world and revolting against our weakness and helplessness against the world. L. is a very passionate very intense lady. She has a very warm body language and she emphasizes her points with her teary olive-shaped eyes and her daring waving hands. She almost leaves you heartbroken to the extent of her empathy, guilty for doubting the world and she leaves you hopeful and lucky for knowing her.

“What can I do? What can I do?” she screams to me in the most humane almost apologetic way trying to make me understand that she is as heartbroken about the dead children and mothers and fathers. She tells me how she stopped talking to half of her family who can’t see what she sees. She tells me how she attacked a rabbi telling him that a state that loots, tortures, confiscates land, undergoes ethnic cleansing and mass killing and war crimes is not a state that should represent her or her children or the religion she believes in. She told him a state built on racism and greed and religious fanaticism is not better that the enemy we try to demonize and to finish off. She tells him we adopted the techniques of the Nazis and what kind of hope will that leave our children with even if you don't care about their children? She then tells me the rabbi looked her dead in the eye and told her, “Every dead Palestinian child is a step forward”. She says she is not surprised, i say i'm not either for these are the hopes of those leaders who are exploiting the religion to their political interests and who exemplify the civilization of hate and the culture of death.

L. cries again, then from a curtain of tears, she regains her defiance for minutes to say that this is not the fault of Israel, this is the fault of the criminals in this administration, the Cheneys and the Woolfowitzs and the Rumsfelds who blindly support the evil that is Israel. She says someone in her family sent her Olmert’s speech and asked her to think about it, the same person who calls her a self-hating Jew. She tells me “I sent him what you wrote about the speech to make him see your perspective and I told him who you were, you see he doesn’t know anyone from Lebanon”. She tells me it doesn’t matter how blue my husband’s eyes are, we’re semites and we’re the closest thing to you. We’re not Europeans and we will never be. She tells me that she’s been ridiculed, called a leftist extremist, a conspiracy theorist, a self-hating Jew. To them she says “what? And your shit doesn’t stick?, you call me a self-hating Jew, which is the most racist thing to call me, just because I don’t agree with what you want to define me and a whole race with?”. She expresses her disgust at the lies, the propaganda with the doom doom doom background music for each war brainwashing the masses, the lies "they claim civilians left behind must be HA when we see cripples and old people", she tells me about the fuss for these enhanced images "but we know what happened, human rights watch, activists who called a told us after they witnessed, war crimes..."

She says, “I’m no better than a lot of peace activists who have been harassed, threatened and even killed”. We agree that we both now understand how all the genocides in the world took place and the world watched as it does today, how the people in power exploit the grief and victimization of the masses in order to fuel more hate and to sponsor more wars instead of focusing on the righteous and the goodness in the world. As always we decide that there will be no hope for peace in the Middle-East, we give examples of a lot of people we know that are just like me and her, to keep some hope for the future. We agree, though, that these people who are the majority are neither greedy nor aggressive enough to step up and try to rule. And we leave with no answers.

I give these words to L. and i tell her that even when i can't say the world will ever change, i see hope knowing people like her exist,

“Loss and losing. Grief, failure, brokenness, numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of dreaming. The absolute, relentless, endless, habitual unfairness of the world. What does loss means to individuals? What does it means to whole cultures, whole peoples who have learned to live with it as a constant companion?”

but she also says,

"The time has come, the walrus said. Perhaps things will get worse and then better. Perhaps there's a small God up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she's on her way. Maybe many of us won't be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing."- Arundhati Roy.

And to L. i say, the unholy alliance has to come to an end.


Mar said...

I wish I feel the same with my Jewish friend. The wall is still there and wonder if I will ever bring the subject of the war up and the wall down.
Great post :) I admire that you shaved your head for the war in Iraq. Maybe you should get a piercing with a cedar somewhere or maybe I should get the flag tattooed :)
Long Live Our Lebanon.

Leila said...

I live in Oakland/Berkeley and I know more than a few Jews who resemble your friend. In fact, when my very activist pro-Arab parents moved here 5 years ago and started going to political meetings, they found they didn't have to raise their hands and make points. It was the Jews in the room saying everything my Arab nationalist father usually says.

I feel grateful to be here at this time, when so many people in my day-to-day life really "get it". Because I lived in New York in 1982 and I was very, very lonely. It was horrible.

laila said...


Mirvat said...

mar, i feel the same sometimes till i meet laura and some people who think like her. then i'm reminded that good people are good people regardless of politics and hate and anger.

leila, yeah NY can be tough, i felt this way especially when we were protesting and we were met with the most hatefull attitude. i'm happy you're surrounded by people who understand and can think for themselves, and welcome to the site :)

thanks princess.