Category Archives: Palestine - Page 5

Know how to deliver your message

You might have the truest message and the most noble cause in the world. But if you don’t present it in an acceptable way to the rest of the world then nobody is going to accept what you are talking about. Worst still, it will most likely negatively affect the cause you are trying to help. You always have to appeal to your audience regardless of the circumstance.

I see this often in Arab-Israeli debates. There is no doubt that we Palestinians have had tremendous injustice bestowed upon us, and we’ve been constantly wronged for the past 60+ years. Yet, Israelis know how to appeal to external/western audiences. There is no magic there, no great conspiracy. Just basic carefully examined messages.

Always know your audience. People in the USA have different mentalities than those in Britain, or France, or Turkey, or Palestine, or Pakistan ..etc. So naturally, what might be a sound argument in one place could be totally useless somewhere else. In Arab-Israeli debates many people immediately jump to issues from the time of the British mandate or 1948. Why ??!! I honestly think this is a bad dialog course. There are far more contemporary immediate problems that we can talk about (and try to resolve). Shouldn’t we try to solve the immediate problems first before tackling the big grand picture problems ?

When talking to people you have to befriend them and think like they do. People are more willing to engage in the viewpoint of somebody who is similar to them rather than somebody who is very different. Never come off too strong. Never be inflexible.

I am often asked questions about the situation in Palestine by Americans. I found it best to start out by telling them the simple most basic things. That is, we don’t like violence. Like them, we too like to live peaceful lives. We like to be able to live, work, visit family, and go about doing our business without hassle. That the vast most Palestinians are not hell-bent on the destruction of Israel but rather want to live normal peaceful lives. Then I tell them how ordinary people who haven’t done anything suffer. How we have more than 500 checkpoints in the West Bank that prevent us from moving around, how Israel imposes city-wide curfews, how people can not move around freely or conduct business freely, how the mobile telephone company struggled with Israel for more than a year just to import a single retransmission tower to meet the increase in demand. I tell them my personal story. People do respond when you tell them about your personal story.

Anyway, this came to mind after seeing what happened in the recent U.N. racism conference. I do not agree with the Iranian president, but he was trying to use Palestine as an excuse for whatever he wants and he was trying to present a case in which, as always, he came off as a nut-job to the west and just managed to hurt the true message of the Palestinian struggle with his idiocy.

Obama off to a good start on the Mid East

Understandably, the Arab street has been doubtful of the American policy in the Middle East. It is understandable because the American foreign policy in the past eight years has disengaged the moderate majority of the Arab streets, that is to say the least. America’s foreign policy in the Middle East in the past eight years was highlighted by a long unjustifiable war in Iraq, frequent escalation in rhetoric with Syria and Iran, complete siding with Israel without exerting any pressure or influence to promote a peaceful solution, and the complete disregard of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to the very last year with a futile last-minute attempt.

The new American president Obama had campaigned with a message of hope and change. He had promised to change the foreign policy tone coming out of Washington to that of promoting dialog, peace, and mutual respect. Like many around the world, Arabs were hopeful in this new president but were still doubtful that that was all campaign rhetoric that will soon be forgotten. After all, George W. Bush had also campaigned under the banner of change!

Barack Obama, however, is off to a good start. He has extended a peaceful message to the Muslim world in his inauguration speech as I blogged previously. He also called Israeli and Palestinian leaders on his first couple of days to gesture that he will not leave the peace process to the last days of his presidency as some of his predecessors have done. His pick for Middle East envoy has a proven record of brokering peace between the Irish and the British, and many are hailing him as a good and balanced pick to hopefully broker a meaningful peace for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Most recently, in his first public TV interview after the inauguration, Obama appeared on the Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya where he seemed to reach out to the moderates in the Arab and Muslim world with a message of mutual respect and open dialog.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised! I too was initially doubtful that Obama would be any different when it came to the Middle East than his predecessors. But so far he has proved me wrong, he seems to be working well on it and I hope he continues. So long are the days of George Bush’s “spreading democracy through invading countries”.

I just hope that Obama’s efforts to change the tone of America in the Middle East continues, and I hope that he will make some serious effort to exercise his influence to broker a real and sustainable peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So Mr. Obama, so far you seem to be working on these foreign policy issues harder and more sincerely than your predecessors. Thank you for that. I hope you continue to do so, and I wish you the best of luck.

Note: It goes without saying of course that it will not all be solved with the external interference of the United States. We Arabs have to work on solving our own problems and building our own communities. I believe that many people agree on this, and I hope it was implied from my previous posts.

Answer to Israel’s “avoiding civilians” claims

During the last crisis in Gaza, Israeli spokespeople and pro-Israeli pundits argued that the high amount of civilian death and casualties is not because of Israel’s use of excessive fire power and disregard of Palestinian civilian human life, but because the Hamas fighters were hiding between civilians. On the scene eye witness accounts, however, have often denied that Hamas fighters or rockets were located in the bombed areas.

Even if we chose to believe that Israel is only surgically targeting militants and not infrastructure, civil services facilities, or just bombing anything that moves; That still does not justify Israel’s actual actions on the ground.

For example, Israel already had complete knowledge of GPS locations of hospitals, UN schools and facilities, and even residential towers. Israel also has complete knowledge that civilians fled to these locations for shelter and treatment. So, if Israel was really trying to minimize civilian casualties in the densely populated Gaza Strip, and even if a sniper or a rocket was fired from a hospital or a school’s vicinity, is the surgically targeted response to bomb the entire area ? Does that really minimize civilian casualties ? What benefit would Israel get from bombing a hospital ??

In the following video, Kenneth Roth, an executive director at the Human Rights Watch describes how Israel used 155 millimeter caliber weapons in a densely populated civilian area. A single fire from this weapon can cause casualties within a 300 meeter radius of its impact location. So, would an army seeking to minimize civilian casualties use such a weapon in a dense urban setting ? The answer is of course not.

The following interview is only 3 minutes long and is really worth the viewing. Unfortunately, it only aired on CNN International which is rarely viewed inside America.