Letter to the Editor 10/10

Attack on Palestinians unwarranted, offensive

I was both shocked and offended after reading the letter published last Thursday, “Tragedy ignored, belittled by Palestinian Authority” by Matthew Silverman. Strong accusations were made including, “Hate is being preached from mosques and churches,” insulting the world’s two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam.

I felt that the sole purpose of the article was to launch an attack against the Palestinian people. However, it was not this in particular that shocked me because Mr. Silverman previously wrote an article suggesting that the Arabs be thrown off the face of the earth; for I am aware that some individuals exist who believe themselves justified in ignorantly generalizing and slandering entire populations.

Rather, it was the fact that The Oracle had allowed such a letter to be printed, taking up 90 percent of a page. Such would lead one to think that the article was worth reading. Unfortunately, this was not my opinion. In the future, I would recommend The Oracle be more selective, for such letters are offensive to many and are responsible for creating such misconceptions.

There were unwarranted and false claims presented by Mr. Silverman that some unsuspecting readers might have mistakenly taken for facts, such as his allegation that in Palestine, 5-year-olds are being taught that suicide bombings are the purpose of life.

True, there are suicide bombers, but it is not true that “suicide is being preached alongside hate in the mosques, schools and on the government-controlled TV.”

I lived in the Occupied Territories for six years and have helped younger siblings with their homework. You may rest assured Mr. Silverman that the glorification of suicide bombings is not a part of the curriculum.

When a tragedy occurs, many will agree that one becomes glued to the television in search of answers. I can confirm that the Palestinian news is not censored. The general public is exposed to the harsh and brutal reality that exists today. Countless Palestinians lose their homes, lives and loved ones, in their effort to end the Israeli occupation. The Palestinians are a people who must continuously struggle to secure their freedom and right to exist.

Palestinian television constantly broadcasts images of the Intifada, or uprising against Israel, including close-up views of gun battles and bodies that have been ripped apart by Israeli bullets. Palestinians are continuously faced with images of tragic funerals and grieving relatives (“Mohammed Al Durra haunts Palestinian children.” AFP. Nov. 6, 2000).

However, children are in no way being encouraged to kill themselves! Sadly, these scenes are simply a part of Palestinian existence. They portray the bitter reality of an unjust military occupation that most of the world chooses to ignore.

Palestinians, on the other hand, are not privileged with the luxury of closing their eyes to the situation. They are forced to live through it, and as a result, their children are suffering on many levels.

If you were to follow up on some of the studies which have been conducted in the region, you would learn that since the elevation of violence (from both sides) the outcome is as follows: ” … children show more signs of fear, particularly for the safety of their parents, wetting their beds at night, mainly those who live in areas where there is excessive Israeli shelling, loss of appetite, depression, fear to go to school, lack of concentration on studies and violent behavior …” (“Israeli shelling leaving psychological impact on Palestinian children.” Maher Abukhater. Nov. 17, 2000).

In reality, rather than trying to teach hate and violence to their youth, Palestinian society is trying to redirect children’s attention from the life they are forced to live. “Social and art organizations have opened their doors to children to come to play, paint or participate in any activity just to get their mind off the violence” (“Israeli shelling leaving psychological impact on Palestinian children.” Maher Abukhater. Nov. 17, 2000).

Also, Mr. Silverman mentioned that America provides Israel with funding to combat the “terrorists.” Might I remind those who have forgotten that Israel was established in a land that did have a people, a people who are now under occupation, living in refugee camps or under apartheid in Israeli territories. The conditions are inhumane.

The occupier may see those being occupied as “terrorists,” but they are merely fighting for their right to live. Those under occupation see themselves as fully justified in their quest for liberty. They fight for their right to exist in peace, free from oppression.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The founders of the United States of America, for example, had to fight a war for independence against the British in order to win their right to exist as a nation “under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

To the British, these men were considered “terrorists.” Although today, we hardly consider ourselves to be a nation built upon a foundation of terrorism.

Mr. Silverman’s remark that “Arafat did not call a day of mourning nor did he try to send a search and rescue team, but Israel had a day of mourning and offered to send their highly trained search and rescue team, among other things,” made me question his knowledge of the Palestinian Authority to a greater extent. There is no search and rescue team owned by the Palestinian Authority.

The limited resources of the Palestinian people are unable to provide adequate food, shelter and education to the thousands of Palestinian refugees forced to live under subhuman conditions since the establishment of Israel more than forty years ago, let alone provide America with any type of useful contribution. You cannot give what you do not have!

After reading Mr. Silverman’s article, those who have little knowledge of the situation would most likely think that Palestinians do not care. I, Eman Ottallah, am a Palestinian and I will tell you that I care very much.

I agree with Mr. Silverman that it is of utmost importance to read. Knowledge is the essence of intelligence. But I would recommend that in addition to www.bbc.com, www.cnn.com and www.jpost.com, you may try www.arabia.com as well as a few other international sources to help give you a broader view of current events.

I am convinced that the only way to achieve “lasting peace” is through a just understanding and cooperation between both sides.

God willing, I hope someday to travel from the Negev to Haifa sitting next to my cousin, without crossing through checkpoints, in a taxi whose driver’s nationality is not identified by the color of his/her license plate and the passengers’ by their identification cards.

Mr. Silverman, please know that my article was not meant to attack you personally. However, as a Palestinian-American who is able to see both sides, I felt that it was my duty to clear up any misconceptions your letter may have generated.

  • Eman Ottallah is a senior majoring in biology.