Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Hope of a Victimized People

Published on Tuesday, June 3, 2008 by the Los Angeles Times
The Hope of a Victimized People
by George Bisharat

This essay was featured as the final segment of an on-line debate between George Bisharat and Judea Pearl that ran for five days as the “Dust-Up” website feature of the Los Angeles Times and its sister publications — Newsday, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

My Palestinian family, in its tradition of compassion and hospitality, is not exceptional. During my last trip to the West Bank, I met a man whose parents had been driven out of what became Israel in 1948 and had settled in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus. The Friday before, as he was taking his son to prayer, an Israeli tank suddenly wheeled into their empty street, spewing heavy machine-gun fire. The man saw his son stumble, then plunge face first into the stairs ahead of him. When the father reached him, the boy had swallowed his teeth and blood blossomed across his shirt. Within minutes he turned blue, his internal organs destroyed. Amid Abu Sayr, age 7, died before reaching the hospital. No protests nor disturbances had preceded this incident, and no one could explain the tank gunner’s zeal.

As the father related this to me and my companions, he saw my eyes film with tears. Then this humble man — a mechanic, as I recall — embraced me and patted my back. Two days after the most searing experience of his life, he offered comfort to me. “Just tell the world how they stole my heart,” he whispered gently. I was reminded, yet again, of the deep courage, resilience and magnanimity of the Palestinian people.